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Are You at Risk for Caregiver Burnout?

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Find alternate care for a few weeks. Your loved one with Alzheimer's may be able to stay for a week or two at a long-term care facility. That will give you a break. Caregivers have told Austrom that these breaks helped them relax and feel more able to provide their caregiving duties.

Share some tasks with a home health aide. If you hire a home health aide part time, they can drop in and help with some of the caregiving tasks.

Contact your Area Agency on Aging. Doing this, says Linda Davis, PhD, RN, professor emerita at Duke University, can point you toward other resources that may be able to help. These resources include adult day cares and home health services. You can find your agency's contact number through the web sites of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging or the U.S. Administration on Aging.

Talk to Other Caregivers

Make time to visit a support group for caregivers in your area.

At a support group, you may learn ways to have less stress while you care for your loved one. You'll also see how other caregivers are dealing with their own challenges, Austrom says.

You can also try an online support group. The Alzheimer's Association, for example, hosts an online community group.

Protect Your Own Health

"Sometimes caregivers, in their zeal to care for their loved ones, will stop taking care of themselves," Austrom says.

They can become sick and fatigued, leaving them even less able to handle their caregiving tasks.

To make sure you stay healthy, don't forget to:

  • See your doctor on a regular basis
  • Keep your prescriptions filled and take them as prescribed
  • Exercise daily, even if it's just a 20-minute walk
  • Try to get enough sleep

You may also want to consider talking to a counselor about the stress you have and the emotions you may be feeling as you help your loved one face Alzheimer's.

Appreciate the Moment

As you tend to one caregiving task after another, time can slip by faster than you realize.

"I've met caregivers who tell me, 'I lost five years of my life. I wish I'd done things differently,' Austrom says. "Taking time for pleasant events is important."

During this caregiving phase in your life, be sure to seek out, enjoy, and remember plenty of positive moments.

At least once a week, do something fun with your family or friends, enjoy the outdoors, or do something else that brings you pleasure. You count, too.

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Reviewed on June 26, 2013

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