Caring for someone who’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging, especially for family caregivers who opt to keep their loved one at home. With over 5 million Americans currently living with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, adult children, spouses and extended family members are increasingly taking on caregiving roles at home rather than putting their loved ones in a memory care facility.
Burnout is common among family caregivers, particularly those who support loved ones with memory loss. Planning ahead, learning about the disease and knowing when to ask for help can all reduce the risk of caregiver burnout while improving the quality of life for those with dementia. Take a look at these tips for reducing the stress of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s at home:
Learn About Memory Loss
Education is key when it comes to caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s at home. The more family caregivers know about the various stages and symptoms of Alzheimer’s, the better they can plan for future challenges.
When a person is first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, they may only exhibit mild, intermittent symptoms. Over time, simple everyday tasks such as using the toilet, bathing and meal prep may become difficult, and they may start displaying a range of disturbing behaviors including aggression and wandering.
Understanding what to expect as the disease progresses can help caregivers prepare themselves for the future.
Make a Plan
Developing a comprehensive care plan can reduce the inevitable stress and uncertainty that comes with being a family caregiver.
If possible, have a family meeting as soon as the loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s so that they can be a part of their care planning. This meeting may include a social worker, doctor or nurse who can help caregivers connect with local resources and recognize when it’s time to seek professional help.
While it’s a difficult conversation to have, this plan should cover finances, advanced health care directives and long-term care.
Recognize Your Limits
Family caregivers often need to wear multiple hats. They might be parenting their own children, working one or more jobs, supporting a spouse and even dealing with their own health issues.
Balancing the demands of dealing with a memory-impaired loved one with everyday responsibilities can be overwhelming. It’s common for caregivers to feel isolated, exhausted and even angry, particularly as the disease progresses.
Set realistic expectations when it comes to caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Schedule time for self-care to reduce the risk of caregiver burnout, and take advantage of offers of help from friends, neighbors and community resources. Recognize that there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and as with most chronic conditions, caregivers need to strike a balance between supporting their loved ones and taking care of their own physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Know Where To Find Support
Nationwide, there are an estimated 16 million unpaid family caregivers supporting those living with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of memory loss. Since Alzheimer’s is a progressive-degenerative disease, over time, most of these families will need to help caring for their loved ones.
Contact the local Area Agency for Aging for information on caregiver support groups and respite service, adult day care programs for those with Alzheimer’s, and long-term care options. There are also a number of online resources for caregivers, including virtual support groups and message boards where families can connect with others facing similar challenges.
Take Advantage of Caregiving Technologies
While high-tech devices can’t replace in-person support, smart home systems, medical alert watches and other digital devices can make in-home caregiving easier.
Many family caregivers utilize smart home technologies to monitor their loved ones through IP cameras that can be accessed through virtually any internet-enabled device. Medical alert systems can also be useful for those with Alzheimer’s disease, especially if the system includes GPS location tracking for individuals who may be at risk of wandering.
Caregivers can also utilize scheduling apps to organize family schedules, keep track of medical appointments and even document any health or behavioral changes in their loved ones.