More people than ever are becoming family caregivers. Being the caregiver for a senior loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease can be both rewarding and exhausting. While it is often a labor of love, managing the complex needs of an older adult with memory loss is stressful. Add in a global pandemic and it’s easy to understand why caregivers may be feeling drained.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 16 million family members are caregivers for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s. That adds up to more than 17 billion hours of unpaid care a year. It can impact everything from mental health to work schedules.
What It’s Like to Care for a Senior with Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s caregivers often juggle a host of physical challenges and emotions. They range from chronic fatigue to guilt, sadness, and loneliness. Caregivers often miss out on family gatherings and quality time with friends because their senior loved one isn’t safe to stay alone.
Watching someone you love slowly lose their health and dignity is difficult to process. It is often called “the long goodbye” and can result in depression among caregivers. But that isn’t the only health issue family caregivers encounter. They also experience health problems such as:
- Digestive issues
- Sleep disorders
- Back problems
- High blood pressure
- Vitamin deficiency
- Unintended weight gain or loss
This is why it’s important to practice healthy self-care when you are tending to the needs of a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
Self-Care for Alzheimer’s Caregivers
- Don’t skip gatherings: Even if you have to do so virtually, participate in family and friend gatherings. While the COVID-19 pandemic is making this tougher for everyone, apps like Zoom and Skype are the next best thing to being in person. Ask your loved ones to bring you in virtually during their get togethers, even if only for a short period of time. It will give your spirit a boost.
- Eat a well-balanced diet: When your to-do list is long, it’s easy to rely on foods from convenience stores and fast food restaurants. These can be high in carbs, unhealthy fats, and sodium, none of which is good for you. They contribute to health conditions like heart disease and diabetes, while also leaving you feeling fatigued. If you haven’t tried it already, consider a meal delivery service such as Blue Apron or Hello Fresh. Ingredients and recipes will be delivered to your doorstep each week. That cuts down on shopping, prepping, and cooking time while allowing you and your family to eat well.
- Exercise: While exercise might seem like a luxury to an Alzheimer’s caregiver, it’s a must for maintaining mental and physical health. It also helps beat stress, improve sleep, and build a stronger immune system. If you can’t work out for 30 continuous minutes during the day, break it up into 10– or 15–minute blocks of time. You’ll reap the same benefits as a longer workout.
- Accept help: Caregivers often resist asking for or accepting help, feeling it is their duty to care for their family member. Letting others help is important to your long-term ability to provide care. If you don’t have a friend or family member who can pitch in, consider respite care at a memory care community. Depending upon current COVID-19 restrictions in the area, a senior can be a guest of an assisted living or memory care community for a few days or weeks. That gives family members a chance to rest and recharge.
Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities
Heritage Senior Communities have a well-deserved reputation for excellence in specialized dementia care. From person-centered care to thoughtfully prepared meals, we invite you to call a community near you to learn more today!