Caring for an older loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is a big commitment. Between doctor appointments, keeping up with medication schedules and finding new ways to adapt to the progression of the illness, it can be difficult for caregivers to find time to take care of themselves, which can lead to emotional stress, fatigue, and even depression.

 Unfortunately, caregiver burnout is an all too common problem, but it can be avoided. With the right mindset and resources, you can do more than just survive as a caregiver. You can thrive. Here are a few ways to do just that. 

Set realistic goals

Caring for an older loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s is a long journey with many ups and downs. Throughout your caregiving experience, make sure your goals and expectations of what you can do as a caregiver are realistic, and adjust them as needed.

Confide in a friend

Having someone to share your experiences, concerns and frustrations with can alleviate some of the stress that goes along with caring for an older loved one. Confide in a friend, family member or someone you can trust when situations become stressful or overwhelming. If you need more support, seek out a local caregiver support group. CMSS hosts a support group on the first Wednesday of each month that is specifically focused on helping caregivers cope, and we welcome you to join us. 

Ask for help

When a loved one is not well, it can be hard to relinquish control and let someone else take responsibility for their care, even if it’s temporary. But as a caregiver, you can’t tackle everything on your own. Be sure to take stock of what you can and cannot do and reach out for help when it’s needed. Even if you’re not in a situation that requires professional help, try tapping a neighbor to assist with your yard work or asking a friend to sit with your older loved one while you go to the grocery store. Offloading some of your chores or freeing up small blocks of time where you can complete them on your own can make a major impact on your own well being and that of the person you care for. 

Take a break

Caring for an older loved one, especially if that person has memory loss, is a round-the-clock job. In order to prevent exhaustion — both physical and mental — it’s important to take advantage of respite care services. Whether you choose to hire a home care nurse to come in for a few days each week or ask a trusted family member to help out at regular intervals, stepping away from your responsibilities for a short amount of time can be of service to both you and your older loved one. You’ll get time to rest and recharge, and your loved one will receive better care when you return refreshed from your time away. 

Self-care is crucial for even the most energetic and able caregivers. Make sure you’re getting the support, resources and time off you need to thrive.

Resources:

WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/women/caregiver-recognizing-burnout?page=2

AARP: http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving-resource-center/info-12-2011/caregiver-burnout.html

Cleveland Clinic: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_Alzheimers_and_Dementia_Overview/hic_Alzheimers_Disease_The_Role_of_the_Caregiver/hic_Caregiving_Recognizing_Burnout

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