The level of assistance provided by caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias tends to be extensive. As symptoms worsen and the amount of care needed continues to increase, caregivers report stress, anxiety and even depression at high rates. The Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Illinois Chapter, offers tips to help manage stress throughout the role of caregiving.
- Know what community resources are available. Adult day programs, in-home assistance, visiting nurses and meal delivery are just some of the services that can help you manage daily tasks.
- Get help and find support. Organize friends and family who want to help provide care and support.
- Use relaxation techniques. There are several simple relaxation techniques that can help relieve stress. Try more than one to find which works best for you. Techniques include visualization (mentally picturing a place or situation that is peaceful and calm), meditation (which can be as simple as dedicating 15 minutes a day to letting go of all stressful thoughts), breathing exercises (slowing your breathing and focusing on taking deep breaths), and progressive muscle relaxation (tightening and then relaxing each muscle group, starting at one end of your body and working your way to the other end)
- Get moving. Physical activity – in any form – can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Even 10 minutes of exercise a day can help. Take a walk. Do an activity you love, such as gardening or dancing.
- Find time for yourself. Consider taking advantage of respite care so you can spend time doing something you enjoy. Respite care provides caregivers with a temporary rest from caregiving, while the person with Alzheimer’s disease continues to receive care in a safe environment.
- Become an educated caregiver. As the disease progresses, new caregiving skills may be necessary. The Alzheimer’s Association offers programs in-person, online and over the phone to help you better understand and cope with the behaviors and personality changes that often accompany Alzheimer’s. You may also find it helpful to talk to other care partners and caregivers about how they are coping with the challenges of the disease and uncertainty about the future.
- Take care of yourself. Visit your doctor regularly. Try to eat well, exercise and get plenty of rest. Making sure that you are healthy can help you be a better caregiver.
- Make legal and financial plans. Putting legal and financial plans in place after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is important so that the person with the disease can participate. Having future plans in place can provide comfort to the entire family.