The holidays are over. If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, it’s back to the reality of a long winter ahead, and the concerns that revolve around the responsibilities you shoulder every day. The amount of stress you carry with those responsibilities cannot be overstated. Stress is in all our lives but, for caregivers, it can seem endless and without help in sight.
The Alzheimer’s Association identifies the 10 symptoms of caregiver stress as follows:
- Denial about the disease. “I know mom is going to get better.”
- Anger at the person with Alzheimer’s or frustration that they can’t do the things they used to.
- Social withdrawal from friends and activities that used to make you feel good.
- Anxiety about the future and facing another day.
- Depression that breaks your spirit and affects your ability to cope.
- Exhaustion that makes it nearly impossible to complete necessary daily tasks.
- Sleeplessness caused by a never-ending list of concerns.
- Irritability that leads to moodiness and triggers negative responses and actions.
- Lack of concentration that makes it difficult to perform familiar tasks.
- Health problems that begin to take a mental and physical toll.
Collectively, these symptoms can knock an otherwise caring, compassionate caregiver off balance, replacing what was once a level-headed approach to daily life with one that is full of daily anxiety.
If you recognize some of the above stress patterns in your life, it is important to know that there are ways to manage your stress before it becomes overwhelming. Here are some tips to gain back control:
- Use your resources. The good news is that there are plenty of them if you know where to look. From the Alzheimer’s Association to our own Anthem Memory Care communities, there are people ready to help.
- Find ways to relax your nerves. Yoga, meditation, breathing and other relaxation techniques can do wonders to relieve stress. Find a class or online session, and stick with it.
- Take care of your physical self. When was the last time you had a complete physical? Make an appointment and keep it.
- Take care of your emotion health. Consider participating in a local dementia support group. There you can share your feelings with other caregivers in a safe and nurturing environment, led by a licensed professional.
- Take some time off for yourself. Many memory care communities have respite care programs in which your loved one can spend a week or more at the community, freeing you up to attend to your needs.
The stress you feel as a caregiver is very real and must be taken seriously. Pushing your feelings aside and neglecting your own needs doesn’t do anyone any good. Take the time now to take steps to gain control over your life and your role as caregiver. Remember, there are resources out there to help. Do this for yourself and do it for your loved one.