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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: Taking Care of Yourself continued...

So what are some ways of coping with stress when you’re an Alzheimer’s caregiver?

  • Stay fit. It’s not easy when you’re stressed, but try to eat with moderation. Activity is key for physical and mental health. If you have the time, take a hike or a yoga class. If you can’t, just squeeze in 20 minute walks or an at-home exercise program.
  • Get away. Spontaneous get-togethers with friends are great, but they may be hard to pull off. So, plan. Get someone to watch the kids and your loved one while you go out for lunch, a shopping trip, or a night at the movies.
  • Create a sanctuary. Eakin suggests that you set aside a room in your house -- or some part of a room -- as a place to get away from the demands of your life for a few minutes every day.
  • Get emotional support. On top of your caregiving chores, you may also feel terrible grief as you watch a loved one slip away from you. Don’t ignore those feelings. Talk to family and friends. Call a hotline or schedule an appointment with a therapist. Look into local support groups for caregivers.

Of course, getting time for yourself hinges on getting help from others. “I think Americans have trouble asking for help,” says Eric J. Hall, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America in New York City. “But you really cannot take care of your loved one by yourself.”

When you’re overwhelmed, it’s easy to get locked into your habits, to keep doing things the same way even if they’re not working. But try to keep some perspective and think of creative ways to get help. At the very least, reach out to some of local and national organizations for Alzheimer’s caregiver support.

Schempp says that sometimes it’s not so much an issue of asking for help, but accepting it. What’s her advice for overworked women and men in the sandwich generation? The next time you run into someone -- anyone – who politely offers to help, don’t assume the person doesn’t really mean it. Don’t modestly decline. “Just say yes,” she says.

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Reviewed on October 10, 2011
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