Taking care of someone with Alzheimer's disease can be a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week job. If you try to do everything yourself, eventually you'll get burned out.

Caregivers are at higher risk for:

  • Depression
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Poor sleep and diet
  • Chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease
  • Headaches and other aches and pains

Before the stress can make you sick, ask friends, neighbors, or family members to take over some of the work. When you ask for help, it doesn't mean that you've given up on your loved one or you don't love them. It just gives you some time to take care of yourself. You'll be a better caregiver when you care for your own mental and physical health.

Why It's So Hard to Ask

About four out of 10 people who care for someone with dementia are the person's only caregiver. Some of the reasons why caregivers don't ask for help are:

  • They don't know what kind of help to ask for.
  • They don't want to bother anyone.
  • They feel guilty if they don't do everything for the person in their care.
  • They're afraid the answer will be “No.”

 

When to Ask for Help

Someone in the early stages of Alzheimer's may still be able to work, drive, and do most other self-care tasks. You might not need to do much at this point. In the later stages, your loved one will probably need help with every basic task, including eating, walking, and going to the bathroom.

Get help if you have signs of caregiver burnout like these:

  • You don't see family and friends anymore.
  • You've lost interest in things you used to enjoy.
  • You feel sad, cranky, or helpless.
  • You're angry at the person you care for.
  • You sleep more or less than normal for you.
  • You have more health problems than usual or you feel exhausted.

 

How to Ask

It can be hard to ask for help. Here are some tips to make the request easier.

Think ahead

Don't ask at the last minute. Let the person know you'll need their help a few days ahead of time, to give them a chance to adjust their schedule.

Describe the situation

Explain why you need the help. You might say, "I barely have time to get showered in the morning. I worry that I'll make myself sick if I don't get someone to take some of the work off my hands."

Be specific and direct

It's easier for someone to help you when they know exactly what you need. Rather than ask, "Can you do a few things for me?" ask if they can go to the grocery store for you, cook a meal, or watch your loved one for a couple of hours on a certain day.

Get organized

Make a list of all the tasks you need done. Then divide up the jobs between all the people who've offered to help.

Be realistic

Ask only for what you know the person can give. Someone who works full-time might not be able to come over and help during the week.

Ask what they want to do

Not everyone can cook or wants to clean house. Find out what each person can and is willing to do. Then match them to the task that best suits their interests and when they can show up.

Be flexible

Situations can change -- for you and the people who help you. Be ready to adjust your helpers' schedules when they have conflicts.

When It's Time for a Different Level of Help

You may reach a point where your loved one needs more care than you can provide, even with friends and family involved. That's when you may want to hire someone to come into your home, or take advantage of programs like meal delivery and adult day care services.

 

There are a few types of in-home services for people with Alzheimer's disease:

  • Companions keep your loved one company while you do other things or take a break.
  • Home health aides can bathe, groom, dress, and assist with other types of personal care.
  • Nurses and other skilled caregivers handle shots, wound care, physical therapy, and other medical needs.

WebMD Medical Reference

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