Caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease can be more stressful than caring for people with other serious diseases.
That's because people with Alzheimer's disease often need care for decades, rather than a few months or years, says Mary Guerriero Austrom, PhD, an expert on caregivers and Alzheimer's disease at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.
Health care providers throughout the United States are making a concerted effort to improve hospice care and palliative treatment in terminally ill patients with Alzheimer's disease. Palliative care is treatment designed to relieve or reduce the intensity of uncomfortable symptoms without trying to cure the underlying disease.
Palliative treatment may involve the use of medicines or surgery to control symptoms such as pain, nausea, and shortness of breath. The primary care doctor will help guide...
Also, over time, people with Alzheimer's need more and more help with basic needs.
As a result, if you're caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's, you have a higher risk of stress and depression.
You may also start to feel burned out. Your body and mind feel exhausted and you become less able to keep providing care.
Learn to spot the signs of burnout and take steps to avoid it.
Recognize Burnout Before It Arrives
Watch out for these symptoms of caregiver burnout:
Growing frustration and lack of patience with the person you're taking care of
Feeling overwhelmed with all your duties
A sense that life isn't ever going to get better or easier
Lack of pleasure in things you used to enjoy
Changes in your appetite or sleep patterns
Abuse of alcohol, medications, or illicit drugs
If you think you're getting burned out, talk to a doctor, Austrom says. Your own doctor may be able to help, and so may the doctor who treats the person for whom you're acting as a caregiver.
Go Easy on Your Loved One and Yourself
Resist the urge to correct your loved one's behaviors or word choices, says Marsha Lewis, PhD. Lewis is dean of the School of Nursing at the University at Buffalo.
Try not to argue with people with Alzheimer's, even when you know their point of view isn't correct. Trying to be "right" takes time and adds needless stress to your life.
Also, don't try to be the perfect caregiver.
"Most healthy older adults, when asked about their preferences for care if they can no longer care for themselves, say 'I wouldn't want to be a burden on my children,'" Austrom says. Your parent, spouse, or other loved one likely wouldn't want you to wear yourself out. Know your limits and try not to push past them.