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Alzheimer's Caregivers: Sandwiched Between Parenting Your Kids and Your Parents

Caring for kids and a loved one with Alzheimer’s, too? Here’s how to make it easier -- for everyone.
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Alzheimer’s Caregiving: Work Issues

Although half of caregivers keep working, Alzheimer’s caregiving is likely to diminish your performance and may sidetrack your career. Here are some things to think about.

  • Evaluate your options. Even if your caregiving responsibilities aren’t overwhelming right now, start exploring what’s possible. How flexible is your employer? Could you shift to part-time if you needed to? Would working from home a few days a week be an option? What kind of eldercare coverage does your employer’s insurance offer? Learn what your options are before there’s a crisis.
  • Look for a different job. If your current employer is inflexible, you may have to quit. That could sound like reckless advice, especially considering today’s economic climate. But you must accept the reality of your position. “Caregivers with demanding jobs who don’t own up to their situation just get increasingly stressed until they hit a breaking point and quit,” says Schempp. Better to plan for a job change than make it impulsively when you’re burnt out.
  • Consider the benefits of a job beyond the paycheck. If you’re thinking about quitting, consider all the consequences. Eakin points out that if you stop working, you stop paying into social security; that means that you could be risking your own financial security later in life. Also, a job -- with responsibilities away from home and contact with coworkers -- can be a reprieve from the demands of caregiving. Losing that outside connection can be very hard.

Alzheimer’s Caregiving: Taking Care of Yourself

If you’re taking care of children and someone with Alzheimer’s disease, you need to take care of yourself too. You’ve probably heard that before. In fact, you’ve probably heard that a hundred times before.

And your natural reaction might be something like: “I have to take care of my mother, work a full-time job, and raise two kids who have school and dance lessons and soccer practice. I don’t have a spare minute in the day to take care of myself.”

But this isn’t fuzzy, touchy-feely advice. It’s a stark fact. If you want to keep taking care of your family and your loved one, you need to keep it together. To keep it together, you need to give yourself breaks. Here are some things to keep in mind.

  • Caregiving has a toll on your health. Caregivers have a higher risk of depression, anxiety, other illnesses, and early death. But according to surveys, caregivers routinely underestimate the effect it has on their health. Look at it this way: being a caregiver is a risk factor for health problems, the equivalent of taking up a risky habit or job, like smoking or lion taming. You need to work extra hard to stay healthy, mentally and physically.
  • Consider the consequences to your family. If you push yourself too hard, and get pneumonia or become seriously depressed, what would happen? If things seem bad now, just imagine how bad they’d be if you were out of commission in the hospital. Who could take care of your family then?
  • Think of the benefits. Getting other people to help out doesn’t only help you. “If the person with Alzheimer’s is going to the day center, or spending time with someone else, it gives them a chance to engage with other people,” says Kallmyer. “That’s really important.”
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How long have you been taking care of someone with Alzheimer's?