Serving as a caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer's can be challenging, and it's not uncommon to feel discouraged when you face hurdles. To help, here are some inspiring thoughts and tips from other Alzheimer's caregivers, like you.
Learn to Communicate Effectively
Author Marie Marley, an Alzheimer's caregiver for over seven years, knows that effective communication is the key to a strong relationship. But she also knows it can be difficult to achieve, especially as your loved one's disease progresses.
To communicate successfully, Marie notes that it's important to interact with your loved one at their level, not yours. It's also best to avoid arguing, correcting, and disagreeing whenever possible. Try to avoid discussing things that agitate your loved one, and change the subject if they do get upset. These tips will help keep the lines of communication open and will make it easier to manage day-to-day care.
Get Caregiver Support
Nearly two years ago, Allan Vann discovered that his wife Clare had early-onset Alzheimer’s. Eager to provide the best care possible, Allan took her to a support group. But he quickly realized that she wasn't the one who needed outside support.
Eager to provide the best care possible, Allan took her to a support group. But he quickly realized that she wasn't the one who needed outside support.
Allan found that he needed a support group for family caregivers, like himself. After joining one in his area, he realized that having the freedom to say anything without being judged or criticized was incredibly liberating. He also learned valuable caring and coping skills that made him a better caregiver.
Look for caregiver support groups in your area and try one out. The ability to talk openly about challenges is liberating, therapeutic, and can help reduce caregiver stress.
Stick to Well-Informed Decisions
There are Alzheimer forums filled with family caregivers discussing what to do when a loved one needs round-the-clock care. A popular choice is to research full-time care facilities and choose the best one - but that option is often not a popular one. As many caregivers learn, dealing with a parent who doesn't want to live in a facility full-time can be extraordinarily challenging. Many forum posters say that though they've made a decision with their loved one's best interest at heart, their parent is pushing back.
Other experienced family caregivers chime in with advice and support. Most suggest standing strong, even though it's hard. Further, they advise caregivers not to let angry rants, guilt trips, or manipulation deter from providing the best possible care.
Respite care is another option to consider, especially if your loved one needs a little extra help but doesn't need round-the-clock medical attention just yet. Bringing in a respite caregiver a couple of times a week can reduce your overall stress, which can also strengthen your relationship with your loved one. Sometimes a well-earned, guilt-free break can make all the difference.
Feeling Guilt is Common
Unfortunately, guilt is a shared feeling among many Alzheimer's caregivers. Many people feel bad that they are unable to provide full-time, at-home care. Others feel guilty that they have made mistakes in the course of caring for a loved one.
It's important to remember it's not your fault that your aging family member is ill - as these caregivers have come to realize. And more importantly, if you are sincerely doing the best you can to care for your loved one, there is no reason to feel bad. You're human, after all. Sometimes you'll make mistakes, and may be unable to meet unrealistic expectations - and that's okay.
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