Medical professionals often refer to Alzheimer’s as a family diagnosis. This isn’t because the disease is contagious, but instead because the whole family suffers from the illness. Alzheimer’s gradually breaks down the parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language of a person until full-time care becomes necessary. Until that time, family and friends often serve as caregivers and can only watch as their loved ones slowly forget who they once were. This experience can be heartbreaking, stressful, and lonely for caregivers.
Here are some ways you can support a family caregiver you know.
The Many Challenges of Caring for a Loved One with Memory Loss
A common challenge caregivers face is emotional stress. Having to watch as Alzheimer’s robs their loved one of their memories and motor skills is devastating. Because of this intense emotional stress, family caregivers often feel isolated. This is especially true when one spouse takes on the role of caregiver for the other. To help deal with these feelings of isolation, support groups such as the Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center offer multiple ways for caregivers to reach out for support and advice.
One of the most common challenges caregivers face is dealing with the behavioral changes that occur with memory loss. Mood swings are common. For example, if something is misplaced, often the person with Alzheimer’s may blame their caregiver. As conversations become more difficult, the confusion a loved one faces can be overwhelming.
Caring for someone you love can create significant stress, and it can be hard to take time for self-care. Support groups such as the Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center have multiple ways for caregivers to reach out for support and advice.
There’s also the matter of legal issues when it comes to caregiving. Family caregivers will want to ensure they have documents such as a living will, power of attorney, and/or a healthcare proxy in place, to prepare for situations where they may need to make decisions on behalf of their loved one. An elder law attorney can help family caregivers get the necessary legal and financial documents in place to be able to honor their family members’ wishes.
Start a Conversation during National Family Caregivers Month
Did you know that November is National Family Caregivers Month? It’s why now is as good a time as any to talk about supporting the caregivers in our lives. This month gives us the opportunity to educate the public about the many challenges caregivers face while also honoring and acknowledging the caregivers in our lives.
Initially launched by the non-profit organization Caregiver Action Network (CAN), National Family Caregivers Month aims to bring attention to the challenges caregivers face every day, while promoting ways to reduce the kind of stress and anxiety that can lead to caregiver burnout. By working towards this goal, the CAN looks to help caregivers maintain the best quality of care while focusing on their own health and well-being.
3 Ways You Can Support an Alzheimer’s Family Caregiver
Coming up with ways to support the caregiver in your life can be tough. Everyone’s situation is unique, and there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. With that in mind, here are a few ways you can support the caregiver in your life and help to alleviate some of their stress.
One of the most important ways you can support a caregiver of someone with Alzheimer’s is by simply reaching out. While checking in over the phone or in a text message works just fine, meet them in-person, if you can. Ask how they’re doing and if there’s anything they would like to talk about. Caregivers are often under a lot of stress, by being someone who will listen, you can relieve a lot of stress and help them re-energize.
Lend a Helping Hand
Lending a hand is a great way to show support for a caregiver. Often family caregivers can use help around the house. Taking care of tasks as simple as cleaning out the gutters, mopping and sweeping the floors, or mowing the lawn can make a world of difference. Helping out with these everyday tasks allows the caregiver to focus their energy and attention on their loved one, while reducing their stress by shortening their to-do list.
Research Respite Care
One of the best ways to decrease is by giving the caregiver more personal time. Allowing the caregiver to re-energize themselves and focus on their own well-being ultimately leads to better care for their loved one. Respite care programs, offered by senior centers and senior living communities, can range from a weekday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. adult day care program, to a short residential stay of two weeks or longer in a fully furnished apartment.
Memory Care and Respite Care Options at Oak Trace
While caregivers with loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s all go through stressful periods, it’s important to relieve that stress whenever possible. If you know a caregiver in your life who is showing signs of burnout, encourage them to reach out for support or ask them to consider respite care. It’s important they be able to create healthy boundaries in their lives.
Memory care is also an option to consider, especially as the disease progresses. Memory care communities, like the one at Oak Trace, provide a calm and comforting environment for older adults with Alzheimer’s where they can get the personalized care they need.
If you or someone you know is struggling with their caregiving responsibilities and might benefit from the services our community offers, our friendly, compassionate team is here to help.