773 E. Haverford Road • Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

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Taking Care of Number One: Stress Reduction Tips for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

If you are a family member who is taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia today, two things are certain:

  • Your loved one will need an increasing amount of care.
  • You, the caregiver, will require an increasing amount of support.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, family caregivers are more likely to report their health is in poor condition than non-caregivers. Caregivers are also more likely to have high levels of stress hormones, inhibited immune systems, slow wound healing, hypertension and coronary heart disease. There are also reports that spousal caregivers will often die before the person with Alzheimer's disease due to these factors. 

Caregivers: The “Second Patient” of Alzheimer’s Disease

Monique Carter, RN, Wellness Director of Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr, says, “The Mayo Clinic, the Alzheimer’s Association and other experts in the field have referred to caregivers as the “second patient” or the “second victim” of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia – and appropriately so. Being and at-home caregiver can take a significant toll on caregivers in terms of their physical, mental and emotional well-being. Many caregivers today are caught in a vice between career, family and responsibility to their loved one and receive little or no respite. Additionally, these burdens only increase over time as the disease progresses and the loved one requires greater amounts of care, supervision and personal attention.”

Take Good Care of Yourself! Monitor Your Stress Level

Ms. Carter adds, “The cumulative effects of caregiver stress can be very dangerous, sometimes resulting in serious physical and emotional illness such as heart disease and severe depression. Therefore, it is critical for caregivers to take care of their own health, not just for themselves, but for their families and the loved one they are caring for.” Some of the key warnings signs of severe stress include:

  • Anger
  • Social withdrawal
  • Anxiety
  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Sleeplessness

You can also take an online Caregiver Stress Check.

“If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Additionally, there are useful techniques you can try that have proven effective in reducing caregiver stress,” concludes Carter.

Useful Tips to Control Your Stress

The Alzheimer’s Association article, “Caregiver Stress,” offers the following useful advice:

  • Know what 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. Use the Alzheimer’s Association’s online Community Resource Finder or contact your local Alzheimer's Association chapter for assistance in finding Alzheimer's care resources in your community. The Alzheimer’s Navigator is a free online tool that helps evaluate your needs, identifies action steps and connects you with local programs and services.
  • Get help – Trying to do everything by yourself will leave you exhausted and at risk of burnout. Seek the support of family and friends and suggestions from other caregivers going through similar experiences. Always be very specific in telling others exactly what they can do to help (e.g. “Please take mom to the dentist next Thursday.”) The Alzheimer's Association 24/7 Helpline (800-272-3900), online message boards and local support groups offer good sources of comfort and reassurance.
  • Use relaxation techniques – There are several simple relaxation techniques that can help relieve your stress. Try more than one to find which works best for you. These 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)
  • 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 your overall well-being. Even 10 minutes of exercise a day can help. Take a walk and/or do an activity you love, such as gardening or dancing.
    • Make time for yourself – As a caregiver, it's hard to find time for yourself, but staying connected to friends, family and activities that you love is important for your well-being. Yoga, exercise, music, gardening and outings with friends can take the edge off of stress. Even if it's only for 30 minutes a week, carve out a pocket of time just for yourself.
    • Become an educated caregiver – As the disease progresses, new caregiving skills may be necessary. The Alzheimer's Association offers programs to help you better understand and cope with the behaviors and personality changes that typically accompany Alzheimer's.

Remember, the most important thing you can do for your loved one is to stay physically and emotionally healthy yourself. Be vigilant of the symptoms of caregiver stress and be sure to take advantage of the recommended coping techniques and supportive resources. Help is available in many forms, and you should never suffer needlessly when caring for your loved one.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Our brand-new Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr community provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comforts of home. Our community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family,” Again

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If, and when, the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again. For more information, please call Sharon at (484) 380-5400, or contact us online.

Disclaimer: This information should not be construed as Impressions at Bryn Mawr Terrace or Main Line Senior Care Alliance offering legal advice. For legal advice, please consult your attorney.