Few diseases are crueler than Alzheimer’s disease. While many debilitating diseases are devastating for patients, friends and family, Alzheimer’s gradually steals away the patient’s very personhood. As the disease progresses, the person you once knew and loved may be replaced by an individual who doesn’t know who you are, why you’re here, or even that you have a history together. It is that loss of personality, the loss of shared history and special memories, which makes Alzheimer’s disease especially devastating for friends, family, and most especially, caregivers. The grief can be overwhelming, and so can the physical demands that come about as a result of caring for somebody with Alzheimer’s. Home care givers of course must be able to take care of their loved ones, but just as importantly, they need to be able to access valuable resources so that they can take care of themselves.
How to take care of yourself if you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s:
Rely on outside help
Caring for somebody with Alzheimer’s disease can be an unrelenting job; the person may remain physically healthy but may no longer have the mental capacity to make the proper decisions so that he or she stays safe. It’s up to you to keep him or her safe, and that may require literally constant vigilance.
As a caregiver, it’s important that you take breaks, even short ones. Visiting nurses and other professional care providers can give you respite. During planned visits, go visit friends, work in a part-time job, or do something enjoyable just for you.
Get appropriate training
You may think you know your loved one best, but it’s still important to be aware of changes you should be watching for in the coming months and years. Visiting nurse associations and other health organizations in your community offer specific programs that educate caregivers. Check in the Yellow Pages or go online to find similar resources in your area. You can also check out sites online that offer specialized training for home care givers; these resources will give you an idea of what’s coming up, what to expect, and what you can do to make things easier for yourself and your loved one.
Connect with other families going through the same thing
Friends and family may sympathize, but no one can truly know what it’s like to care for someone with Alzheimer’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week – unless they’re also in the same situation themselves. Connect online or in person with those who are also caring for Alzheimer’s patients. They know exactly what you’re going through, and you’ll find the help and advice you can both get — and give — from these communities invaluable.
- Photo Credit: title=”Saying farewell to Nana after 88th birthday cookies” by Tim & Selena Middleton, on Flickr
- License: Creative Commons image source