Caring for someone, particularly someone with Alzheimer's Disease, can be an overwhelming task. Care giving can be physically demanding, emotionally draining and may cause stress and conflict with your other responsibilities. As a caregiver it is important that you take care of your own physical and mental health and learn about the signs of care giver burnout. Alzheimer's caregivers often overlook their own health, because they are focusing so much attention on their loved one.
Common signs of caregiver stress include the following:
- Feeling sad or moody
- Crying more often than you used to
- Having low energy level
- Feeling like you don't have any time to yourself
- Having trouble sleeping, or not wanting to get out of bed in the morning
- Having trouble eating, or eating too much
- Seeing friends or relatives less often than you used to
- Losing interest in your hobbies or the things you used to do with friends or family
- Feeling angry at the person you are caring for or at other people or situations
If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself or other family members, professional help should be sought immediately to prevent caregiver burnout. Talk with your family doctor about your feelings and stay in touch with your friends and family. Ask others for help but remember to be specific when asking for help, don't expect others will know what you need. Early attention to symptoms of caregiver burnout - through exercise, a healthy diet, positive support of family and friends, or consultation with a trained health professional may help to prevent you developing a serious depression.
Families often experience anxiety and pain at seeing unsettling changes in a loved one, and this increases as the disease progresses. As an Alzheimer's caregiver you will commonly feel guilty over not being able to do enough. The prevalence of reactive depression among caregivers is disturbingly high--Alzheimer's caregivers are chronically stressed and are much more likely to suffer from depression than the average person. Also when a caregiver has been forced to retire from their job or other activities outside the home, they can feel progressively more isolated and no longer productive members of society.
The emotional and physical burden of caring for someone with Alzheimer's can be overwhelming. Keep in mind that it is normal to feel angry, frustrated, or depressed from time to time. The following strategies will help when you find yourself experiencing care giver burnout:
- Remove yourself from the situation by walking away, even if it's just around the house
- Talk to someone with whom you feel close
- Call a hot line
- Talk with your doctor or other health professional
- Write down your feelings in a journal
If you find that you are frequently angry or depressed or that your emotions are getting out of control, you may benefit from a combination of counseling, respite, caregiver support groups, and supportive in-home services. Joining an online support groups will also give you the added convenience of being able to receive support without having to leave home.