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An Expert’s Advice When Caring For A Loved One With Alzheimer’s

By Kathy N. Johnson, PhD, CMC
Certified Geriatric Care Manager, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Home Care Assistance

Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia in people over 65. More than 27 percent of Americans have a family member with Alzheimer’s.

Caring for an older loved one is never easy, but Alzheimer’s caregiving presents special challenges. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 40 percent of these caregivers suffer a "high" level of emotional stress. And according to a study published by The Journal of Immunology, caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can actually shorten a caregiver's life by up to 8 years!

The truth is that individuals with Alzheimer’s are extremely difficult to care for, and seeing someone you love slowly slip away takes an incredible emotional toll.

Given the seriousness of symptoms such as memory loss, wandering and hallucination, people with Alzheimer's often require around the clock care. They cannot be left alone for a minute. And most family caregivers who try to provide this level of 24/7 care, eventually feel overwhelmed and exhausted.

If you’re caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer's, these strategies should provide some of the help and support you need:

  1. Contact the Alzheimer's Association or your local senior center. They can help you find support groups or organizations for you to join to get information and connect with others just like you.
  2. Arrange for respite care. Do not hesitate to call relatives, neighbors or friends and ask for help. Put together a weekly schedule of people you trust. This will allow you the time you need to run errands, buy groceries or take a few hours off from caregiving. Home care agencies, like www.homecareassistance.com, are experts in providing respite care ranging from a few hours day to 24/7 care.
  3. Research adult day care centers. Programs at adult day care typically run from 9am-4pm. Families can drop off their loved one for the day, knowing they are in a safe, professional environment.
  4. Hire a geriatric care manager. Visit www.caremanager.org for a list of care managers in your area. These professionals will help you coordinate all the services you need in your local area. As a result, your stress level will be reduced and your loved one will have your full attention.
  5. Read a book, medical journal or go online. The more you know about Alzheimer’s, the better. Those who are highly informed about the disease will make smarter decisions when it comes to caregiving.

By following these five essential steps, caregivers can greatly reduce the stress that comes with caring for loved one with Alzheimer’s. As a caregiver, protecting your health need to be a top priority.