Mary Alexander: Hi! I am Mary Alexander from Home Instead Senior Care, and today I am talking about avoiding caregiver burnout. And now we are going to talk about ways to cope in dealing with Alzheimer's patients. Many family caregivers presently care for a parent or spouse who is suffering from some sort of dementia. In fact, the frequency of dementia increases with rising age; from less than 2% for the 65 to 69 year-olds, to 5% for the 75-79 year-olds, and to more than 20% for the 85-89 year olds.
Caring for someone with dementia often requires a great deal of time and patience and it can cause great stress to the family caregiver, particularly as memory loss progresses. In fact, according to Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser and Dr. Ronald Glaser, the stress of family caregiving for persons with dementia has been shown to impact a person's immune system for up to three years after their family caregiving ends. Thus, increasing their chances of developing a chronic illness themselves.
Let's talk a little bit about what dementia is. While we all will have memory lapses as we age, the term dementia describes a group of symptoms that are caused by changes in brain function. These changes have serious consequences on memory, personality, and behavior.
Those with dementia tend to repeat questions, become disoriented in familiar places, neglect personal hygiene or nutrition, or get confused about people or time. It can be caused by many things, some of which are reversible, such as vitamin deficiencies and poor nutrition, reactions to medications, or problems with the thyroid. However, some forms of dementia are irreversible, such as that caused by mini-strokes or Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's disease occurs when the nerve cells deteriorate in the brain, due to a buildup of plaques and tangles, which actually results in the death of a large number of brain cells. Doctors are not sure why this occurs, but research is underway to determine causes and cures. According to the Alzheimer's Association, 4.
5 million Americans are presently living with Alzheimer's disease. This can be physically demanding for the family caregiver. It can also be highly emotional, as your loving relative may eventually look at you like a total stranger, despite all of the time and effort you are devoting to their care and well being.
Often a senior with this disease can become abusive verbally and physically, which further compounds the incredible stress for the family caregiver. Richard Schulz, PhD and Caregiver Stress Expert at the University of Pittsburgh, warns that family caregivers of senior relatives or spouses with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia are at great risk of suffering from depression, anxiety, frustration, stress, and anger.
Research shows that caregivers of a family member with dementia face particularly stressful demands because of the length of period of care, the behavioral and cognitive problems associated with dementia, and the extreme impairment of patients with end stage dementia. Therefore, Dr. Schulz advises family caregivers to learn about the challenges they face and seek assistance early in the caregiving role.
To help you better understand and care for a relative suffering from severe dementia or Alzheimer's disease, we recommend you follow these nine guidelines.
First, understand the disease. Read about the disease and its effects, so you are prepared as it progresses. With your understanding also comes additional patience, as you realize that the person is not doing this on purpose or to make you angry, it's a medical condition. Second, enter their world. Instead of trying to correct a person with Alzheimer's disease, ask them simple questions about their statements, even if they seem strange or about a person who is no longer living. This will make you and your relative less frustrated. Third, strike a balance. Encourage as much independence as possible. Help the person by prompting or cuing them to do things for themselves when possible, but realize, you will need to step in if your relative's safety or well being will be compromised in any way.
Fourth, get support. Enlist the help of family and friends to spend time with your senior loved one, to give you respite. You can also join a local support group for people who care for those with dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Fifth, tap into resources. Find professionals in your area to assist with practical, yet emotional, tasks, such as making senior care decisions, elder law issues, such as power of attorney, asset management, or creating a will. Sixth, decide on assistance. Family caregivers often find they are spending quantity time versus quality time. Doing the shopping, taking the relative to appointments, and cleaning versus spending time with their relatives. Investigate in listing the help of a professional caregiving service for the everyday tasks, so you can spend time with your loved one and appreciate them.
Seventh, create a positive and comfortable environment. Distractions, such as street noise, a loud television or radio, could lead to agitation or anxiety. Eight, use effective communication when speaking with someone with Alzheimer's disease or dementia. Be aware of your rate of speech, pitch, and tone. Try to modify it, so they can best understand you. And lastly, remember to use positive body language. Greet the individual with relaxed facial expressions and shoulders. If you are tensed, the person with dementia or Alzheimer's may pick up on it. Certainly caring for a senior loved one with dementia or Alzheimer's disease is challenging. There are a number of helpful Internet sites, including alz.
org, the National Alzheimer's Association, and Leeza's Place at leezasplace.
org, where you can find more information, help, and guidance.
Next, we are going to give you ways to de-stress and take care of yourself.