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

By Kathy Johnson

Given the seriousness of their symptoms, people with Alzheimer’s often require around the clock care. But their caregivers need assistance, too. 

Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia in people over 65. More than 27% 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% 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, 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. These professionals will help you coordinate all the services you need. 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. Researching products, such as adult diapers and personal safety alarms to prevent wandering, can help make caregiving easier.

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.

- Written By

Kathy Johnson

Kathy N. Johnson, PhD, CMC is Co-Founder of Home Care Assistance, which she began after having gone through her own struggles in finding elderly care for her out-of-state parents. Since its inception in 2002, Home Care Assistance has been the premier provider of live-in home care for seniors, first in the San Francisco Bay Area and currently throughout North America.