Caregiver Burnout and the Dementia Patient
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is officially listed as the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. This equates to one in three older adults living with AD or another form of dementia, and these older adults require support, support which is often provided by family and friends.
For those caring for an older loved one, they are likely no stranger to the burnout often associated with this type of care. This can include, but may not be limited to:
Excessive use of alcohol, medications, or sleeping pills
Appetite changes – either eating too much or too little
Depression – hopelessness, feelings of alienation, lack of energy to do new things
Thoughts of death
Losing control physically or emotionally
Neglect or rough treatment of the person for whom you are caring
Trouble falling or staying asleep
Difficulty concentrating, missing appointments
The good news is, there is help available.
Often, family caregivers are so focused on caring for others that they forget to take care of themselves. On average, an individual with Alzheimer’s lives eight to 10 years after they are diagnosed. Some individuals live with the disease for as long as 20 years. That’s far too long for any caregiver to juggle so many responsibilities without assistance.
Reaching out for help from a home care agency or trusted friend, even just a couple of hours per week, before the stress affects your health and wellbeing.
What is respite and how can it alleviate burnout?
Respite care provides family caregivers a much-needed break from their daily caregiving responsibilities. Using respite services can support and strengthen a caregiver’s ability to continue taking care of their loved one in the home.
For advanced dementia, specially-trained caregivers can provide a much-needed break while ensuring that all care needs are being met with advanced dementia-care strategies.
Join a Dementia Care Support Group
Support groups may feel intimidating. However, caring for those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia means learning new things every step of the way. Caregiving can be an isolating journey, but those who participate in support groups report feeling less alone, better prepared to deal with challenges, and more hopeful about the future.
They can also help minimize burnout.
Establish a Self-Care Routine
Take slow, intentional breaths – rhythmic breathing is breathing in through your nose for five seconds (or as long as you can) and breathing out of your mouth for five seconds. The idea is the amount of seconds you breathe in is the same as what you breathe out. This breathing exercise can help you relax in even the most stressful moments.
Write out a daily/weekly plan – both your loved one with dementia will benefit and so will you. As you get into a rhythm, write out daily/weekly routines to help you feel more structured and accomplished during the day. Be mindful of balancing task-oriented activities with carving out your own time too!
Step away from a stressful situation – sometimes we just need to take five. If the situation is too much and your loved one is safe, you may benefit from simply walking outside or in a bedroom and taking five minutes to regroup.
Walk it out - for most, this is the hardest part to consider but you MUST! Both your well-being and your loved ones depend on it. Go for a walk or find time to meet up with a friend.