It’s painful to watch a loved one go through Alzheimer’s disease. As the disease progresses, it seems as if everything about the person just disappears. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than five-and-a-half million Americans suffer from the disease, and it is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. In addition, the Bright Focus Foundation states that it is a growing epidemic, and that by the year 2050, unless a cure is found, nearly 14 million people over the age of 65 will suffer from it.
In the face of these overwhelming statistics, caregivers provide more than 17 billion hours of unpaid service to Alzheimer’s patients. Yet, who cares for the caregivers? How are you taking care of yourself as you care for your loved one? Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is physically and emotionally exhausting. If you’re not busy helping the patient with basic life tasks such as bathing, going to the toilet, or simply providing companionship, you’re watching them socially and mentally deteriorate — and that can be painful.
To make sure that you are taking care of yourself as you take care of your loved one, consider these basic suggestions.
Make the Space Safe For Both of You
One constant worry you might have as a caregiver is in-home safety for the patient. Should he or she walk through the house when you need to tend to something else, there are some things you don’t want accessible, such as cabinet doors where cleaners and other chemicals are stored. The National Institute on Aging recommends that you make the home safe by removing all clutter, locking basement and upstairs doors, locking away all power tools, tacking all extension cords to baseboards, and more. You should also make sure all smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are functioning. A safe home for your loved one can bring you some peace of mind and lessen your stress levels.
Get Plenty of Rest
The level of attention required to care for an Alzheimer’s patient is challenging. Turn your back once, or even just step into another room for less than a minute, and the patient could possibly get up and wander. Even worse, they could open a door to the outside and walk away. Plus, there is the emotional attachment to your loved one with the disease. If you are constantly feeling exhausted, you can’t keep providing that level of intense care without regular rest. Among other recommendations the AARP makes for caregivers, one suggests that you provide a night-time environment of sleeping, not caregiving, for yourself. That means a dark, comfortable space away from where your patient is. Use a baby monitor if you must listen for your loved one in the other room.
Eat Right and Exercise Regularly
It’s too easy to eat just a sandwich for lunch and have somebody bring you back some fast food for dinner. As stressful as caregiving for an Alzheimer’s patient is, you need to have a diet that can combat stress, one that includes foods high in potassium, such as bananas; avocados; leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach that can balance the stress hormone cortisol; fatty fish such as salmon for essential omega-3 minerals; and, of course, milk, yogurt, and cheese. Also, give yourself an exercise break and take a brisk walk around the block. If you don’t have time to go to a gym for a workout, consider bodyweight exercises, which require no special equipment — plus, you can do them in your home. Moving your body can produce those essential endorphins, which can energize your body and mind while also combat stress and anxiety.
What you do as a caregiver might not be directly felt by your loved one who has Alzheimer’s. Still, you can only do so much before you’re physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained. By taking care of yourself as well as you care for the patient, you can make sure that you are completely able to provide a high degree of compassionate care.
Photo is pixabay creative commons
Guest Author Bio
Marie Villeza hopes to fight ageism by connecting seniors with the resources they need to live happy, healthy lives. To aid her efforts, she developed ElderImpact.org, which offers senior citizens and their caregivers resources and other advice that will help them make the best decisions for their lives in an ever-changing world.