Caring for a loved one with dementia can be overwhelming. According to the Alzheimer’s Association®, more than 15 million Americans are caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s or other type of dementia. In 2015, caregivers of people with dementia provided an estimated 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care, valued at $221.3 billion.
For caregivers, witnessing the cognitive decline of a loved one can be painful. Caregivers often report feelings of sadness, stress, guilt, anger, isolation, and depression.
The Alzheimer’s Association® has prepared a list of 10 signs of caregiver stress. If you or anyone you know is caring for a loved one with dementia, it may be helpful to recognize the following signs. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests anyone experiencing any of these symptoms on a regular basis should see a doctor.
“I know Mom will get better.”
Treating dementia like a passing phase may be comforting, but it won’t be helpful in the long run.
“If he asks me that one more time I’ll scream!”
It’s common to feel upset over a loved one’s deteriorating cognition, as if they could fight through it if they only tried harder. Caregivers may also direct anger inward, wishing they could do more.
3. Social withdrawal.
“I don’t really care about weekly coffee with friends anymore.”
Preoccupation with caregiver responsibilities can remove us from the things we usually treasure and enjoy.
4. Anxiety about the future.
“What happens when he needs more care than I can provide?”
It’s only natural to forecast concerning what-if scenarios. This goes along with financial matters as well. According to the Alzheimer's Association's 2016 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures, caregivers spend an average $5,155 out of their own pockets each year to help someone living with Alzheimer’s disease.
“I just don’t care anymore.”
Succumbing to feelings of helplessness can break your spirit and affect your ability to cope. This can include thoughts of suicide or death. Luckily, depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
“I’m too tired for this.”
Caring for a loved one in the later stages of cognitive decline can be overwhelming, making normal daily tasks nearly impossible to complete.
“What if she wanders out of the house or falls when I’m not there?”
Quality sleep can be hard to come by when you’re dealing with a never-ending list of concerns. Consider these tips for better sleep from the American Psychological Association.
“Leave me alone!”
Exhaustion can lead to agitation, moodiness, and negative responses and actions.
9. Lack of concentration.
“I’m sorry. I was so busy I forgot we had an appointment.”
The never-ending list of caregiver responsibilities can distract from obligations and commitments.
10. Health problems.
“I can’t remember the last time I felt good.”
The culmination of emotions, stress, and lack of sleep can begin to take a considerable mental and physical toll on caregivers.
Tips to manage stress from the Alzheimer’s Association:
• Adult day programs, in-home assistance, visiting nurses, and meal delivery are a few services that can help caregivers through rough times. The Alzheimer’s Association® Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center is a great place to start.
• If you feel overwhelmed, call the Alzheimer’s Association® 24/7 Helpline (800-272-3900). Don’t shy away from seeking support from family, friends, and other caregivers either. Tell them what they can do to help.
• Become an educated caregiver. New skills may be needed as the disease progresses. The Alzheimer’s Association® caregiver center offers training resources that can help you better understand and cope with the behaviors and personality changes that may occur.
• Don’t neglect your own well-being. Visit your doctor regularly. Watch your diet. Exercise at least 10 minutes each day. Spend at least 30 minutes a week with friends, family, and activities you love. And get plenty of rest.
Things to Consider:
• Learn to recognize the 10 signs and what you can do about the symptoms.
• If you know a caregiver going through an especially difficult time, share what you learned here.
• If you ever feel helpless, call the Alzheimer’s Association Helpline at 800-272-3900.