Caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease is among the toughest personal journeys someone can make. To make life for caregivers easier, the Alzheimer’s Association has an Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center — a resource crammed with valuable information for caregivers of patients at all disease stages.
But there are also tips on how to find support as a caregiver, including engaging in support groups or message boards, or having a conversation about the time to stop driving. Below are number of topics raised as problematic in two recent surveys of dementia caregiving, released at the start of June — Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month — and raised in an exclusive interview with Monica Moreno, senior director of care and support at the Alzheimer’s Association.
Caring for a family member can be draining. So to continue to offer quality care, caregivers need to stay physically and emotionally strong, the Alzheimer’s Association says.
To do so, caregivers should regularly see their physicians about any ailments they experience. It is important to take any signs of exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness, or changes in appetite or behavior seriously, and consider getting a seasonal flu vaccination to avoid unnecessary disease.
Exercise and a good diet will also aid a caregiver in remaining healthy, as will active attempts to reduce stress. Tips are offered at the association’s caregiver health webpage.
Few people are born to be natural Alzheimer’s caregivers. So the association offer training in the form of online courses, and web-based and local workshops. Books and DVDs complement the courses, some of which offer certification.
The Alzheimer’s Association suggests it is crucial to plan for the costs associated with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. This should begin no later than the moment a diagnosis is made.
To help caregivers in this task, the association has collected information about the type of costs that might emerge and the financial documents a caregiver might need. It has also set up a list of tips on how to best go about financial and legal planning.
The Alzheimer’s Association has drawn upon knowledge of families that handle caregiving well to develop an infographic, offering tips to tackle family tension around Alzheimer’s.
Actively communicating about responsibilities is crucial. Tips include that family members listen to one another’s opinions, without blaming or attacking each other. Making a list of responsibilities — including the time, money and effort involved — and then dividing the responsibilities according to each member’s abilities and preferences is one method the association recommends. Discussions about care methods and potential modifications are also encouraged.
Equally important is sticking together, both within the family and with others in the same situation. The association also encourages seeking outside support when needed.
This support can be found in a 24-7 helpline that the Alzheimer’s Association runs, to support families in navigating the many challenges of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. The helpline telephone number is 1-800-272-3900.