After a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, it's normal for family members, caregivers and friends to feel overwhelmed, angry and upset. The Alzheimer's Association points out that no two people experience the effects of Alzheimer's disease in exactly the same way.
Therefore, it's important for caregivers and family members to focus on making important decisions about daily care responsibilities, and also to learn how to take care of themselves so they can provide the highest level of care for the patient.
Effects of Alzheimer's on Caregivers
Family caregivers may experience feelings of loss, grief, depression, and high levels of stress as they witness their loved one going through all of the stages of Alzheimer's. This can make it difficult to cope with their own daily lives.
However, there are ways to cope with the effects of Alzheimer's. Practicing self-care activities that help keep the caregiver physically and emotionally strong are essential for coping with Alzheimer's.
What to Expect When a Person Has been Diagnosed with Alzheimer's
According to the National Institute on Aging, understanding the main challenges can make it easier to cope. It's important to understand that the person with Alzheimer's disease may get confused easily about language, lose their train of thought when talking, have problems paying attention, and become very sensitive to touch and sounds. They may also exhibit personality changes such as wandering away from home regularly and hiding things from people. They may become anxious about going to a certain place, experience confusion after a change in routine, and show signs of depression or disinterest in daily activities.
Still, those who are affected by a loved one's Alzheimer's diagnosis can educate themselves on the changes in communication skills, personality and behavior that are attributed to the disease. Knowing what to expect can make it easier to connect with the person who has Alzheimer's disease because the caregiver can be more direct with their communications, learn to be patient with angry outbursts, and think of ways to show that they care as the disease progresses.
Coping Tips for Caregivers
Dr. Roy Steinberg of the Caregiving for Caregivers association encourages all caregivers to pay attention to the atypical behavior associated with Alzheimer's disease so they know whether their communication style is harmful or effective.
It's also important for the caregiver to learn some healthy coping strategies so that they can provide the best possible care for their loved one. These strategies include:
- Joining a support group
- Getting enough sleep
- Dealing with stress in a healthy way
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a well-balanced diet
- Taking a "time out" when needed
- Turning to in-home care services when needed
- Asking for help
- Being aware of the symptoms of depression
- Keeping a journal, meditating or taking part in other enjoyable activities each day