Managing Caregiver Stress

Dementia caregivers frequently report experiencing high levels of stress. It can be overwhelming to take care of a loved one with dementia, but too much stress can be harmful to both of you.

10 symptoms of caregiver stress

  1. Denial about the disease and its effect on the person who has been diagnosed.
  2. Anger at the person with Alzheimer’s, anger that no cure exists or anger that people don’t understand what’s happening.
  3. Social withdrawal from friends and activities that once brought pleasure.
  4. Anxiety about the future.
  5. Depression that begins to break your spirit and affects your ability to cope.
  6. Exhaustion that makes it nearly impossible to complete necessary daily tasks.
  7. Sleeplessness caused by a never-ending list of concerns.
  8. Irritability that leads to moodiness and triggers negative responses and actions.
  9. Lack of concentration that makes it difficult to perform familiar tasks.
  10. Health problems that begin to take a mental and physical toll.

Tips to manage stress

If you experience signs of stress on a regular basis, consult your doctor. Ignoring symptoms can cause your physical and mental health to decline.

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.

Get help.
Trying to do everything by yourself will leave you exhausted. Seek the support of family, friends and caregivers going through similar experiences. Tell others exactly what they can do to help.

Use relaxation techniques.

  • 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 overall well-being. Even 10 minutes of exercise a day can help. Take a walk. 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. Even if it’s only 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 often accompany Alzheimer’s.

Take care of yourself.
Visit your doctor regularly. Watch your diet, exercise and get plenty of rest. Making sure that you stay healthy will help you be a better caregiver.

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