Caregiver Fatigue Leads to Health Decline

A good night’s sleep is essential for overall health and wellness but for many older adults, especially those caring for a loved one at home, getting proper rest can be elusive. Family caregivers for people with dementia often neglect their own care while trying to meet all the needs of an elderly or unwell loved-one.  According to a recent University at Buffalo study, fatigue, and poor quality sleep put family caregivers at risk of developing physical and emotional problems while they struggle to care for loved ones at home.

The Buffalo informal caregiver study suggests that visiting nurses should assess caregiver level of fatigue routinely.  Learning how to manage stress and getting sufficient sleep is important for the caregiver’s health; poor sleep and increasing fatigue can also affect the quality of care loved-ones receive.   High levels of fatigue were also associated in the study with a greater incidence of depression among caregivers.

Family caregivers provide about 80 percent of care for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  Behavioral changes and declining physical function in dementia patients can take a serious toll on the overall well-being of the caregiver.  Unless caregivers are able to take time to look after their own physical and emotional health, they are more likely to suffer burn out.  

During the pandemic, many family caregivers have been without respite care or outside help for months, and they are suffering. Online support groups can help caregivers cope with stress and learn skills for managing challenging behavior, keeping loved ones safe, and communicating more effectively.  Whenever possible, family caregivers should accept help from friends, family, or local social service agencies in order to practice self-care. Taking short breaks for sleep, exercise, meditation, socializing or personal care can go a long way to being a better caregiver and protecting one’s health.

For more strategies on dementia caregiving, follow this link to the Family Caregiver Alliance