By Lydia Chan
Caring for an elderly loved one is no small task to begin with, but when your loved one is plagued with a disease such as Alzheimer's, the challenge can be nearly unbearable. Your fight against your loved one's Alzheimer's can feel like rowing a hole-ridden boat down a stream without a paddle. You may feel like you are fighting a losing battle, and this will come with many frustrations and fits followed by an overwhelming sense of defeat.
Perhaps this all seems familiar to you. Now, as National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month begins, you should take a moment to consider how to keep yourself happy and healthy as you take care of your loved one.
Here are three tips for caregivers to consider:
1. Know When You've Reached Your Limit
As you rise up to take on the challenges of your loved one's Alzheimer's, you need to know that every person has their limits. No one is perfect, and there might be times when you feel frustrated and downright exhausted. You also need to understand that there comes a point when the "I got this" mentality goes awry. You need to be aware of your stress and how your body is reacting to the stress when you care for someone with Alzheimer's.
Pushing your mind and your body too hard for too long can end up having much more of a negative impact, not only on yourself, but on the loved one you are caring for. As you care for your loved one's Alzheimer's, be conscious of your own stress and anxiety. If you begin to feel constantly sick, upset or unable to eat or sleep, you might want to consider taking a step back and letting someone else share the load.
See More: Who Is Caring for the Caregiver?
2. Don't Hesitate to Ask for Help
When you reach the point where you feel overwhelmed beyond relief, seek out others. If there are family members who are available even to commit just a little of their time, recruit their assistance to take over when your stress is getting the best of you. To ensure the well-being of your loved one with Alzheimer's, ask for help before you need it.
Reaching out to friends and family members for assistance ahead of time will allow you to easily trade off on responsibilities. Once you find someone who agrees to help, give them a copy of your care plan, extra house keys or any important documents so that the transition between caregivers is smooth.
You might consider enlisting the help of transportation services to help your loved one get around more easily on their own, giving you a much-needed break. Limiting the work you put into your caregiving can give you a breather and let your loved one take more control in their day-to-day activities.
If your loved one's Alzheimer's has progressed to where you can no longer support him or her, and if there are no family members that can take on the responsibility full-time, you might consider finding a long-term care facility.
3. Make Sure You Are Fulfilling Your Own Needs
Through your time as a caregiver, you should never neglect your own needs. The more you give of yourself in caring for your loved one, the more you may weaken your own body and mind. There comes a point when your effort can undo your efficiency, and instead of helping your loved one, you are hurting them—as well as yourself in the long run. It is important to take just as good care of your own well-being as your loved one. Eat healthy foods, exercise and fill your life with other activities and hobbies. You may feel like you have no time for any distractions in your caregiving, but the more you can give to yourself, the more you will eventually give back to your loved one.
November is not only National Alzheimer's Awareness Month, but National Family Caregiver's Month as well. You work hard taking care of your loved one and want to give everything you can to make sure they can fight this disease and live a good life in their golden years. Just remember that you matter too, and sometimes even the helpers need a little help.