Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be heartbreaking and overwhelming. Caregivers often report feeling overwhelmed by the demands of caring for someone with this disease and other forms of dementia. These feelings often lead to caregiver burnout, a state where the caregiver is physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. Caregiver burnout can lead to a lower level of care for the loved one and depression for the caregiver. Caregivers can help themselves avoid burnout by using these coping strategies.
Set Realistic Goals and Know Your Limits
Being honest about what you can and can’t do for your loved one is key to avoiding burnout and giving your loved one the best care possible. For example, some older adults taking care of a spouse with Alzheimer’s are doing so without any outside support from a family while, at the same time, dealing with their own medical needs. These caregivers may want to consider independent living or assisted living for their loved one if another acceptable alternative can’t be found. These communities allow older adults to care for their spouses in the ways they can while providing on-site assistance for the things they can’t handle alone.
Take Advantage of Respite Care Services
Adult children taking care of a parent with Alzheimer’s disease should consider taking advantage of respite care services. There are two main options for respite care: in-home caregivers and day-care facilities. In-home caregivers come to you. They are trained, compassionate, and come to your home and stay with your loved one while you run errands, meet with friends, or go to work. Day-care centres offer those with Alzheimer’s a safe place to socialize and participate in activities while giving their primary caregiver a break.
Accept Your Feelings and Talk About Them
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, denial, anger, anxiety, irritability, and depression are all common feelings experienced by those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s and dementia. These feelings typically leave the carer feeling a secondary emotion: guilt. Logically, a caregiver may know that it makes no sense to be angry at their loved one for something they can’t help, which leads to guilt about their feelings. But these feelings are common, real, and should be accepted and talked about, either with friends, other family members, or even a therapist, social worker, or a faith-based leader.
Take Care of Yourself
Using respite care, knowing your limits, and talking about your feelings are all ways to take care of yourself. But it’s also important to take time for yourself to do things you enjoy. You’re doing the best you can, so spend time alone with your friends or spouse, take a class to learn something new, or even just go on a walk alone every day. According to the University of Michigan Health Service, doing these types of things boosts your mental health, which leads to better care for your loved one and a decreased risk of caregiver burnout and depression.
If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, and think you may be suffering from caregiver burnout, consider using these coping strategies, starting with accepting your feelings and talking about them. Using healthy coping strategies to create good habits can help caregivers stay emotionally healthy and allow them to provide a better level of care for their loved one.