When a senior loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, family members often pitch in to help with their care. It can be a rewarding experience. Whether it is a spouse, parent, or grandparent, providing support for a loved one helps you feel as if you are making a difference.
But caregiving can also be physically and emotionally exhausting. The unique challenges caused by the disease can leave family caregivers fatigued and worn out. It’s fairly common for loved ones to begin experiencing health issues of their own as a result.
Added to that is the emotional journey Alzheimer’s takes families on. Dementia experts often call it “the long good-bye.” It’s a fitting description of a disease that slowly robs a person of their health, independence, and memory.
The Alzheimer’s Caregiver Struggle
The demands of caring for an adult with Alzheimer’s are unique. Whether it’s worries about wandering or issues related to memory, loved ones face a variety of challenges. It can lead to feelings of uncertainty and loneliness.
Families may get embarrassed about behaviors they aren’t aware are common when a person has Alzheimer’s, such as angry outbursts in public or inappropriate comments. While friends may sympathize, they likely can’t understand and relate unless they’ve been through it.
The result is that between 40 and 70 percent of family caregivers find themselves battling depression. One way to better cope with the rollercoaster of emotions many caregivers experience is connecting with peers. Joining a caregiver support group allows you to do just that.
Benefits of Joining a Caregiver Support Group
Support groups give caregivers a judgement-free place to share guilt, fears, and frustrations. It can also be a forum for asking questions and obtaining suggestions from people who’ve faced similar challenges. You can join a support group that meets in person, such as one hosted by a specialized dementia care community or senior center, or an online group.
Some caregivers prefer an in-person meeting because of the face-to-face interaction it offers. It can be a meaningful way to connect with caregiving peers. Others are more comfortable with the anonymity of an online support group or forum. The 24/7 accessibility makes it easier for busy caregivers to participate. Caregivers can post their questions or challenges in chat forums or on message boards any time of day or night and get advice.
Here are a few online caregiver support groups to explore:
- ALZConnected: Created by the Alzheimer’s Association, this forum gives dementia caregivers access to helpful information and resources. They also host message boards and chat rooms dedicated to specific topics related to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
- Family Caregiver Alliance: This organization is for all types of caregivers. Through this website, people can connect with groups that support everything from cancer patients to struggling spouses.
- com: On this site, you will find resources and forums on a variety of topics of interest to caregivers. They range from where to buy adult briefs at the best price to how to plan for a loved one’s move to senior living.
Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage
If you are caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, exploring the options for assistance in your local area is important. For those who live in Michigan, Heritage Senior Communities may be of interest. We invite you to schedule a visit and personal tour of a specialized dementia care program at a location near you!
I’ve been the primary caregiver for my dad for over 3 years. He has Alzheimer’s disease and moved in with my husband and I. His forgetfulness made it unsafe for him to live alone. He was neglecting to take his heart disease medication and was beginning to wander from home and become lost.
While I am retired and fortunate not to have to work outside the home, some days I struggle to keep up with my dad. He doesn’t sleep much, so I have trouble keeping an eye on him.
My friend suggested I look for an Alzheimer’s caregiver group to join. In all honesty, I think it’s just one more thing to fit into my schedule.
In your experience, what are the benefits of joining a caregiver support group? Is it worth the time it takes to attend?
Barb in Saginaw, MI
Why Join a Caregiver Support Group?
What a great question! I’m sure other family members wonder the same thing. While it might initially seem like more work, there are important benefits of joining a caregiver support group:
- Validate your feelings: Family caregivers experience a range of emotions. It’s sad watching a loved one’s decline. You may fear you aren’t doing a good job. Then there is the unspoken emotion: guilt. Caregiving for a family member often means sacrificing your personal time. It can make even the best-intentioned caregiver a little resentful. When you talk with fellow caregivers, you’ll quickly discover these feelings are normal.
- Share ideas: Being part of a support group gives you access to others who’ve likely experienced similar struggles. They can offer tips for how to prevent wandering or what to do when a loved one won’t eat. You can learn what’s worked for other caregivers so you have new ideas to try.
- Vent frustrations: Let’s face it, caregiving can be emotional. Families often disagree about how to handle vital issues. It’s especially tough when loved ones have strong opinions on how things should be done but aren’t willing to help. A caregiver support group provides a place to vent your anger and frustration.
- Feel connected: Family caregivers often feel isolated and lonely. This is especially true if the elder has Alzheimer’s and isn’t safe staying alone. Commiserating and laughing over common struggles with people who relate can help you feel less alone.
Online Support Groups for Alzheimer’s Caregivers
Because the challenges Alzheimer’s caregivers face are so unique, it might be easier to connect with an online support group. ALZConnected is one that is hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association.
I hope this helps, Barb! I wish you the best of luck caregiving for your dad.
Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities
Heritage Senior Communities has been caring for adults with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia since 1946. Our family-owned company is dedicated to helping people with dementia enjoy their best quality of life, despite the disease. Call the Heritage community closest to you to learn more!
Assisted living is often considered an ideal solution for older adults who need a helping hand to remain independent. It’s a level of senior care that blends support with amenities in an environment that allows for resident privacy. Seniors who move to an assisted living community still feel in charge of their own life.
How does assisted living support independence? Here are a few ways these communities benefit seniors striving to maintain their independence.
Assisted Living Supports Senior Independence
- Thoughtfully designed environment: Each resident has a private apartment or suite. The layout and features are designed with the unique needs of older adults in mind. In Heritage assisted living communities, seniors will find barrier-free accessibility, grab bars in bathrooms, and emergency call systems. You’ll find more senior-friendly features throughout the community, such as handrails along hallways. It’s a thoughtful approach designed to lower the risk of falling.
- Caregivers available 24/7: One challenge families face when a senior loved one tries to age in place in their private home is the unpredictably of needs. For example, family members may not be available overnight to help an older adult to and from the bathroom. It is also difficult for working adults to remind their senior parents to take their medications throughout the day and night. In an assisted living community, caregivers are on-site around the clock to support resident needs.
- Transportation services for residents: Another struggle older adults often encounter is transportation. Some may continue driving despite no longer feeling safe doing so simply because they don’t feel they have other options. Seniors may also feel like they are burdening their adult children with continued transportation requests. That’s why the transportation services provided by assisted living communities are so popular. In addition to regularly scheduled group outings to local restaurants and shopping malls, staff can arrange transportation for residents’ doctor’s appointments and other errands.
- Maintenance-free lifestyle: Another convenience that promotes independence is having household chores and maintenance tasks covered. Everything from snow removal to appliance repair is handled by the community’s staff. In most communities, housekeeping and laundry services are included in the monthly fee or available as an add-on service. No more worries for seniors about asking adult children or grandchildren for help or trying to track down a contractor.
- Wellness made easy: When a senior is struggling at home, their diet often suffers. It becomes easier to rely on convenience meals and processed foods. However, most are high in sodium and fat. That can lead to poor nutrition, which puts older adults at higher risk for illness and falls. In an assisted living community, well-balanced meals and healthy snacks are standard. Most dining services teams can also accommodate special diets, such as low-sodium or gluten-free. With Heritage Hospitality, residents have a choice of menus at every meal.
- Medication management: Finally, the caregivers at an assisted living community help residents stay on track with their medicine. It’s another area that can be difficult as health needs require older adults to take multiple over-the-counter and prescription medications. Depending upon the community and state regulations, staff can help by providing reminders or even assisting seniors in taking their medication.
Schedule a Tour of a Heritage Community Today
The best way to learn about assisted living and its benefits is to tour a community in person. If your search includes Michigan or Indiana, we invite you to consider Heritage. View our list of communities and schedule a visit to a location that interests you!