Caring for a loved one can be emotionally and physically challenging under any circumstances, but when adding in an illness such as Alzheimer’s or dementia the challenge increases significantly.  Your loved one is going to be confused and scared about what is happening to them and as their caregiver, they will look to you for answers and comfort.  

Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. Currently there are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, and someone is diagnosed every 66 seconds.  Caregivers are 28% more likely to eat less or go hungry due to the extra financial strain. On average, care contributors lose $15,000 per year as a result of decreasing hours or quitting work in order to meet the demands of caregiving. One in five caregivers will cut back on their own doctor’s visits in order to keep up with their care responsibilities.  These are some startling facts that cannot be taken lightly.

Looking after a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia can be rewarding as well as exhausting.  Many times you will feel a sense of pride and happiness and other times you will feel sadness and possibly even anger.  It is important to remember that all of these feelings are normal and to be expected.  Make sure to acknowledge and accept these feelings so they can be dealt with in a healthy and appropriate manner.  Keeping a journal can be a great way to address all the emotions you are experiencing as well as to help you document specific factors that are impacting those emotions.  Journaling can also be a great tool for learning about your loved one’s illness as it progresses and keeping track of important tendencies and patterns.

Most importantly, don’t forget to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your loved one to the best of your ability.  It’s important to set aside specific time each day or each week to do something you enjoy such as  reading a good book, taking a hot bath, or going for a walk or run.  If needed, arrange to have someone else take over your responsibilities so that you can take the time away without having to worry.  Make sure you are maintaining a balanced diet and getting enough sleep as well as regular exercise.  Support groups are available in most areas both in person or online so make sure to find a network that fits your needs. There are more than 15 million caregivers facing these same challenges so reach out and remember that you are not alone.

To learn more about caring for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, visit here.