Tips for Caregivers — from Dr Mari
Like most chronic illnesses, Alzheimer’s disease impacts the family unit, and every member of the family can benefit from learning more about their loved one’s condition. Jim Rohn once said, “One person caring about another represents life’s greatest value.” As you care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, I hope his words remind you that you are a priceless gift and blessing to your loved one.
Here are a few tips to help you, the caregiver, thrive in the face of Alzheimer’s disease:
- – Take care of yourself! If you neglect your wellbeing, your loved one with Alzheimer’s may suffer for it, too. But when you give from a full heart, you will be more patient and more loving, and will likely feel more content at the end of the day.
- – Ask for help and accept it graciously. You can’t do it all!
- – Explore available resources to help you care for your loved one (see list below). Partner with your healthcare team (doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers). They can help equip you for success!
- – Watch out for medications and the person with Alzheimer’s disease. Even some commonly used over-the-counter medicines can affect brain function, and every little bit counts. If in doubt, consult their physician.
- – If your loved one has more than one doctor, ensure that everyone has an accurate list of their current medications, including recent changes in dosage and treatments added by another provider. Medications can interact with one another and lead to side effects, over-dosage or decreased effectiveness.
- – Preparing for the future can lessen anxiety and worry. Discuss advance directives and consider assigning surrogates for important medical and legal decisions.
- – Depression, anxiety, and Alzheimer’s often coexist. If there is a sudden decline in function or mood, there may be an infection, a mood disorder or another problem; seek medical care rather than assuming that the Alzheimer’s disease is getting worse.
- – Monitor your loved one’s ability to handle tasks like cooking and cleaning to ensure their safety, and discuss their needs with their healthcare team.
- – Laugh, hug, and share memories often; this is good for the heart and the brain!
- – Pray often, schedule fun and relaxation into every week, and maximize each day’s opportunities. The world is full of beauty everywhere. Share joy and hope, and live life fully!
- – “Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway.” (Emory Austin)
- – Consider joining a support group for caregivers. This can be one of the best things you do for yourself and your loved one!
- – Fill up your emotional and spiritual tank each day so that you can be fully present with your loved one. Take breaks when you need them. And remember Dr Mari’s ABC’s For Caregivers™:
Ask for help when you need it, and know the warning signs of burnout.
Be proactive as things change, keep your sense of humor, and pray in all things.
Choose a loving, hopeful attitude each day. Life is short, and today is all you’ve got.
Resources for Caregivers and Families:
Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org): 24/7 Helpline 1-800-272-3900
Family Caregiver Alliance (www.caregiver.org): 1-800-445-8106
Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return Program: A nationwide program that helps return to safety persons whose memory is impaired.
Alzheimer’s Disease Education & Referral Center: 1-800-438-4380
Bio: Dr Mari is a board-certified family physician; she is also the copyeditor and translator for Hope Matters. Dr Mari is the wife of a pilot-turned-preacher and the happy mom of three terrific children. In her writing and speaking ministry, she seeks to stir hope, ignite faith, and inspire positive action in others. For more inspiration and resources, visit her blog.
* This column offers general information and is not intended to replace or conflict with advice obtained from your healthcare professional. For specific advice regarding your situation, consult your physician or other healthcare professional. *
© 2012 Amaryllis Sánchez Wohlever, MD