Being an informal or family caregiver for an elderly loved one can be both challenging and rewarding, but taking care of the physical and emotional well-being of someone with dementia is especially stressful. Talking with other caregivers who have shared your unique experience can be helpful and studies have shown that caregiver support groups, whether online, in person or by phone, can help caregivers prevent depression and illness.
Taking care of someone with dementia involves more than just the physical needs of an elderly person, the disease may also cause changes in behavior and temperament, agitation and wandering. And for family, the decline in cognitive function and memory can be frustrating and emotional. Learning to manage the stress this type of caregiving involves and practicing self-care is important for caregivers who themselves may be getting older. It is estimated that 15.7 million adult family caregivers provide care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia today in the United States. As the baby boomer generation ages, this number is expected to rise steadily over the next 20 years.
Caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia can quickly become socially isolated as it begins to be more difficult to venture away from the familiarity of home. Family caregivers need to make sure they have a support group to lean on and take breaks with respite care to visit their doctor, exercise or get together with friends without feeling guilty.
In addition to the physical and emotional toll of caring for a love-one with dementia, family caregivers frequently suffer a financial impact. Careers can be jeopardized by the increasing time required to look after the many needs of aging family members and caregivers often find themselves using their own resources to meet the needs of loved ones with dementia. This financial burden can add to stress levels for caregivers.
For more information about how to manage the stress associated with family caregiving of people with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, follow this link to the iCare Family website. The site offers training and information about how to relax, manage difficult behaviors and tips for communicating with people who have dementia. Funded by the National Institute on Aging, and developed in collaboration between Stanford University and the Alzheimer’s Association, videos and articles can help the growing number of informal caregivers better cope with the demands and stresses of caregiving.