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Harvard Commentaries
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Harvard Commentaries
Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School


Caregiver Stress


June 17, 2014

Stress
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A-Z Stress Reduction Index
Caregiver Stress
Caregiver Stress
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Alzheimer's has an impact not only on the patients but on all those around them, especially when the patient is being cared for at home. This article tells what to watch for and what to do when the caregivers become emotionally drained.
35681
National Institute of Health
2011-03-08
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Alzheimers Association
2013-08-05
From the Alzheimer's Association
 
Are you so overwhelmed by taking care of someone else that you have neglected your own physical, mental and emotional well-being? If you find yourself without the time to take care of your own needs, you may be putting yourself and your health at risk.

Symptoms of caregiver stress

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Social withdrawal
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Sleeplessness
  • Irritability
  • Lack of concentration
  • Health problems
Be a healthy caregiver

Taking care of yourself is one of the most important ways to be a healthier caregiver.

  • Understand what's happening as soon as possible. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s may appear gradually. It can be easy to explain away changing or unusual behavior when someone seems physically healthy. Instead, consult a doctor when you see changes in memory, mood or behavior. Don’t delay; some symptoms are treatable.
  • Know what resources are available. Contact the Alzheimer’s Association or use our online Community Resource Finder to find Alzheimer’s care resources in your community. Adult day programs, in-home assistance, visiting nurses and meal delivery are just some of the services that can help you manage daily tasks.
  • Become an educated caregiver. As the disease progresses, new caregiving skills are necessary. Find information on alz.org or contact your local Alzheimer's Association.
  • Get help. Trying to do everything by yourself will leave you exhausted. Seek the support of family, friends and community resources. Use our free, personalized online Care Team Calendar (alz.org/carecalendar) to organize family and friends who want to help. Our 24/7 Helpline, ALZConnectedTM online social networking community (alzconnected.org) and local support groups are good sources for finding comfort and reassurance. If stress becomes overwhelming, seek professional help.
  • Take care of yourself. Watch your diet, exercise and get plenty of rest. Make time for shopping, lunch with friends or even a golf outing. Take advantage of community services such as adult day care or in-home companion services to care for your loved one while you take a break.
  • Manage your stress level. Stress can cause physical problems (blurred vision, stomach irritation, high blood pressure) and changes in behavior (irritability, lack of concentration, change in appetite). Note your symptoms. Use relaxation techniques that work for you, and talk to your doctor.
  • Accept changes as they occur. People with Alzheimer's change and so do their needs. They may require care beyond what you can provide on your own. Becoming aware of community resources — from home care services to residential care — should make the transition easier. So will the support and assistance of those around you.
  • Do legal and financial planning. Plan ahead. Consult a professional to discuss legal and financial issues including advance directives, wills, estate planning, housing issues and long-term care planning. Involve the person with Alzheimer's and family members whenever possible. Use Alzheimer's Navigator™ (alzheimersnavigator.org) to help assess your needs and create a customized action plan.
  • Give yourself credit, not guilt. Know that the care you provide does make a difference and you are doing the best you can. You may feel guilty because you can't do more, but individual care needs to change as Alzheimer's progresses. You can't promise how care will be delivered, but you can make sure that the person with Alzheimer's is well cared for and safe.
  • Visit your doctor regularly. Take time to get regular checkups, and be aware of what your body is telling you. Pay attention to any exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness or changes in appetite or behavior. Ignoring symptoms can cause your physical and mental health to decline.

If you need more information or just someone to talk to, call us at 1-800-272-3900.

©2012 Alzheimer's Association. All rights reserved.

Last Updated: 6/17/2014

 

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