When someone develops Alzheimer’s, often the first choice for a caregiver will be a family member, for many reasons. The spouse, child or grandchild of an Alzheimer’s patient may feel guilty sending their loved one to a memory care facility, or may simply have the desire to provide the loving care that the patient deserves.
There are, however, disadvantages as well. For instance, being the primary caregiver means that you must deal with the physical, emotional and mental aspects of Alzheimer’s, and the feeling of being on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As the patient’s disease progresses, the demands on the caregiver become more and more demanding, which often causes burnout for the caregiver. Some of the warning signs are stress, fatigue from interrupted sleep, impatience, feeling inadequate or guilty that they are not doing enough, and self-neglect.
A caregiver can benefit greatly from the kind attention of a friend or family member. If you know someone in this situation, and you are able to see signs of stress, depression, or frustration in a caregiver, there are several ways you can help:
- Offer to take care of the Alzheimer’s patient for several hours a week, giving the caregiver an opportunity to take care of her own appointments, run personal errands, or just relax. Rather than just asking how you can help, be specific with what you can do. Besides offering to take care of the patient, help with household chores, such as cooking or cleaning may be welcome as well. It is also a great idea to get other family members and friends involved and encourage them to participate in giving support to the caregiver on a regular basis.
- Encourage them to join a caregiver’s support group. It helps to know that you’re not alone and that others may be experiencing similar situations with their loved ones. There will be resources available on care training, or ways to manage stress, information about medical care, housing options or adult day centers.
- Be available to listen. When someone takes care of an Alzheimer’s patient all day, every day, communication may be limited, and the same words or phrases will be repeated many times. It helps to have a have a serious conversation (or a silly one, if that’s what is needed!) from time to time. Acknowledge what they are saying, but try not to interrupt or to offer advice unless it is solicited. Being there and listening is a great way to show support.
Remind the caregiver that he or she doesn’t have to do this alone . The best way to take care of someone else is to first take care of yourself.