November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month. In the United States, there are more than 15 million Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers. We want to send these exceptional people a big “thank you” for everything they do.
The selfless work of caregivers dedicate so many hours of their time to loved ones each day that they may forget to take care of themselves. The Alzheimer’s Association provides an excellent brochure on 10 ways to be a healthier caregiver.
1) Understand what is happening as early as possible. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s may appear gradually. It can be easy to explain away changing or unusual behavior when someone seems physically healthy. Instead, consult a doctor when you see changes in memory, mood, or behavior. Don’t delay; some symptoms are treatable.
2) Know what community resources are available. Contact your local Alzheimer’s Association office for assistance in finding Alzheimer’s care resources in your community. Adult day programs, in-home assistance, visiting nurses and meal delivery are just some of the services that can help you manage daily tasks.
3) Become an educated caregiver. As the disease progresses, new caregiving skills may be necessary. The Alzheimer’s Association offers programs to help you better understand and cope with the behaviors and personality changes that often accompany Alzheimer’s.
4) Get help. Trying to do everything by yourself will leave you exhausted. Seek the support of family, friends, and community resources. Tell others exactly what they can do to help. The Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 helpline (800-272-3900), online message boards, and local support groups are good sources of comfort and reassurance. If stress becomes overwhelming, seek professional help.
5) Take care of yourself. Watch your diet, exercise and get plenty of rest. Making sure that you stay healthy will help you be a better caregiver.
6) Manage your level of stress. Stress can cause physical problems (blurred vision, stomach irritation, high blood pressure) and changes in behavior (irritability, lack of concentration, change in appetite). Note your symptoms. Use relaxation techniques that work for you, and talk to your physician.
7) Accept changes as they occur. People with Alzheimer’s change and so do their needs. They may require care beyond what you can provide on your own. Becoming aware of community resources ? from home care services to residential care ? should make the transition easier. So will the support and assistance of those around you.
8) Make legal and financial plans. Plan ahead. Consult a professional to discuss legal and financial issues including advance directives, wills, estate planning, housing issues, and long-term care planning. Involve the person with Alzheimer’s and family members whenever possible.
9) Give yourself credit, not guilt. Know that the care you provide does make a difference, and that you are doing the best you can. You may feel guilty because you can’t do more, but individual care needs to change as Alzheimer’s progresses. You can’t promise how care will be delivered, but you can make sure that the person with Alzheimer’s is well cared for and safe.
10) Visit your doctor regularly. Take time to get regular checkups, and be aware of what your body is telling you. Pay attention to any exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness, or changes in appetite or behavior. Ignoring symptoms can cause your physical and mental health to decline.
© 2012 Alzheimer’s Association. All rights reserved.
If you would like to learn more about your legal and long term planning options for you and your loved one, the estate planning and elder law attorneys at Bratton Law welcome you to contact our law office. Bratton Law is committed to helping families likes yours plan for a secure future. 856-857-6007.