Itâs easy to look at numbers and feel unaffected. So, when we see that there are an estimated five and a half million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimerâs disease, it might not seem that serious. We live in a big country, right? But, if youâre a family member of one of these people, youâre affected just as much. So, every Alzheimerâs diagnosis can fairly be multiplied by two, three or even four. That means at least 11 million people in our country are personally affected by Alzheimerâs right now, maybe even 22 million. Thatâs a lot of people who most likely need some advice on how to cope. Maybe youâre one of them. So, today I have some crucial tips on what to do if your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimerâs.
The Demands of Alzheimerâs Disease
The Alzheimerâs Association estimates that family members provide 83% of the long-term care for dementia patients. Wives and daughters take on the role of caregiver in the overwhelming majority of cases, and it can take a serious toll on their mental, physical, and financial health.
Just think about it; most of these caregivers have virtually no experience in dealing with somebody with dementia. They may have raised a child or two and been the head of the household, but that in no way, shape, or form can adequately prepare someone for the challenges that lie in caring for a loved one with Alzheimerâs.
Alzheimerâs caregivers report higher rates of depression than those who care for family members with other conditions while being twice as likely to experience substantial emotional, financial, and physical troubles.
Itâs very hard work to care for somebody youâve known your entire life, and have them not recognize you, notice your efforts, or give any indication that you are the wife, husband, daughter, or son who has been beside them for decades. The distance that opens between dementia patients and their caregivers is incomparable with virtually any other condition.
How to Cope: Tips for Alzheimerâs Caregivers
With limited resources in America for Alzheimerâs care and little help available from medical professionals, itâs important that youâre aware of what options you have if youâre ever in the position of caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimerâs.
1. Find Support Programs
The first thing you should do if a family member is diagnosed with dementia is search the Alzheimerâs Association web site. It can provide a host of valuable resources that offer assistance, like respite care and adult day care services to help free up time in your schedule and provide some stress relief.
2. Take Care of Yourself
There are a few things you can do to take care of yourself during this trying time. You can build a support network to help you develop coping skills, as well as to provide stress relief and reinforcement. Having people to talk to and doing activities to help you stay healthy are very important.
Asking for and accepting help are worth embracing. Giving care to a loved one with dementia is a struggle, especially when youâre inexperienced. Get all the help you can.
3. Make Time for Yourself
Making time for yourself is also important. It makes sense that you want to be available 24/7 to your loved one, but itâs not sensible. Scheduling time every day for yourself to do the things you enjoy is central in stress management, life satisfaction, and overall well-being. Itâs also essential to stay engaged in your interests and spend time with the other people in your life.
4. Donât Take Things Personally
One of the hardest adjustments to make is not taking things personally. As your loved oneâs mental health deteriorates, they may say or do things that can seem hurtful, and they may forget events, commitments, and other important memories youâve shared. So, itâs crucial to remember that itâs most likely the disease thatâs causing the behavior, and not the person youâve known for years.
5. Engage with Your Loved One
Lastly, be engaging with the person to whom youâre providing care. Talking to them, remaining patient, and letting them perform tasks on their own can all help the days pass a little easier. And make them far less stressful. Engagement is key, even if it feels like communicating with a stranger.
âWives, Daughters Shoulder Most of Alzheimerâs Care Burdenâ MedlinePlus, May 9, 2017; https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_165385.html, last accessed May 16, 2017.
â2017 Facts and Figures,â Alzheimerâs Association; http://www.alz.org/facts/, last accessed May 16, 2017.
âEarly Stage Caregiving,â Alzheimerâs Association; https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-early-mild-stage-caregiving.asp, last accessed May 16, 2017.