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How to Prevent Burnout When Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer's

Burnout is common among caregivers who care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s caregivers tend to keep their loved one’s health and happiness top-of-mind 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For live-in caregivers, such as a spouse or adult child caring for an aging parent, there really is no “off” time.

Constant worry and fear can increase stress, impact sleep quality, and eventually wear down the body and mind. Caregivers experiencing burnout can be more prone to illness and disease, simply because their body’s natural defense system is weakened due to ongoing stress. Fortunately, by recognizing the signs of burnout and taking steps to reduce stressors, burnout can be prevented in many cases.

Know the Warning Signs

The first step in preventing burnout is learning to recognize the early warning signs. Symptoms such as feelings of frustration, a sudden lack of patience with the person you’re caring for, difficulty concentrating, sleep and appetite disruptions, and feelings of depression are all indications that you’re beginning to – or already are – experiencing burnout.

When you do begin to recognize these warning signs, it’s important, yet difficult, to avoid blaming yourself or allowing negative self-talk to cause you to doubt your abilities as a caregiver. Even the strongest, most resilient individuals experience caregiver burnout.

Set Realistic Goals

Caregivers are natural problem-solvers, so they tend to try to take on the world and expect to be able to accomplish it all in a short time. Set realistic expectations for the loved one you care for and for yourself.

Additionally, take some time for respite. You can’t give your best to caring for your loved one when you’re exhausted and stressed out. Set reasonable expectations for yourself in this regard and take advantage of respite services, such as adult daycare services and short-term respite in senior living communities. And don’t resist reaching out to family and friends for help with some of the tasks of caregiving, such as personal hygiene tasks such as washing the Alzheimer’s patient’s hair, or other tasks such as running errands or household chores.

Look for Local and National Resources to Help Defray Costs

Financial stressors place a big burden on Alzheimer’s caregivers. From reduced hours at work to paying for medications and other healthcare bills, caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is anything but affordable for most caregivers. In fact, some don’t seek respite care services simply because taking on another cost is not possible.

Be sure you’ve exhausted all possibilities for help paying for care before you throw in the towel on securing services that would benefit both you and your care recipient. Medicare, Medicaid, Veteran’s benefits, private insurance, and other options exist to help you cover the cost of care. A good place to start is securing the services of a geriatric care manager, who can serve as an advocate and aid you in setting up various financial arrangements.

Seek Out Emotional Support

Caregivers not only need physical breaks, but they need emotional support, as well. When caring for a family member, caregivers must juggle the duties of caregiving with their own roller coaster of emotions as they watch the changes occurring in someone they love.

Look for support groups for Alzheimer’s caregivers or aging caregivers in your local area. If you can’t find a local group you can attend in-person, there are some online support groups and websites that offer advice for coping. Some caregivers also find that counseling is beneficial for helping them manage their emotions and avoid caregiver burnout. For others, a weekly one-on-one chat over a cup of coffee with a supportive friend is enough to keep them going.

You might also seek out the help and support of a service dog for your loved one. These days service dogs aren’t just for the visually impaired. Now, they’re being trained to assist people with Alzheimer’s and dementia with daily tasks, such as getting dressed, preventing wandering, and safely getting them from place to place. With a service dog looking out for your loved one, you can have an extra assurance that they’re being watched over in addition to the excellent care you’re providing.

There are many specific tips for preventing caregiver burnout, but most fall into the four key areas described above. When you learn to recognize the signs of burnout, set realistic expectations, seek out resources for financial help, and have adequate emotional support, you’ll be able to give your best self to your caregiving duties.

Pedagogy Guest Blog by Vee Cecil. Vee Cecil is a health advocate with a passion for spreading awareness on the wellness topics affecting us all. She recently launched a blog, which she maintains between personal training sessions, bootcamp classes and spending time with her family at home in Kentucky.

**Photo Credit: Image via Pixabay by geralt**
Posted: 4/12/2016 11:46:52 AM
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