How to Balance Your Life as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be both emotionally and physically draining. It might seem easier, or even necessary, to put yourself second. But, balancing your caregiver duties and caring for yourself is important to both your well-being and that of your loved one. Here are a few tips on how to balance your life as an Alzheimer’s caregiver.

How to Balance Your Life as an Alzheimer's Caregiver

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and the vast majority, 87%, are being cared for by caregivers at home.

At the average age of 48, many Alzheimer’s caregivers are also caring for their own families and working full time. Around two-thirds of Alzheimer’s caregivers report having missed work due to caregiving responsibilities. Among the many sacrifices caregivers make, the Alzheimer’s Association highlights these:

  • Lost family income due to missed work, quitting work entirely or retiring early
  • Less time for family and vacations
  • Giving up hobbies, friends and social activities
  • Failing to exercise or eat a healthy diet

Finding Balance as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

You want to fulfill all of your duties as a caregiver, parent, spouse and sibling as best you can. So how can you balance your health needs with the other demands placed on you?

Here are seven suggestions for how you can help balance your health and wellness with your responsibilities as an Alzheimer’s caregiver:

1. Seek support.

The Alzheimer’s Association says that only about half of Alzheimer’s caregivers pursue paid help or support services. Estimates show that less than 10% of caregivers use respite services, and around 11% participate in support groups. Support groups for Alzheimer’s caregivers and other services are there to relieve some of your stress, so take advantage of them.

2. Ask family for help.

Even if you have agreed to be a primary caregiver, you are entitled to time off from your duties. Ask other family members to fill in for you on a regular basis. Or, ask relatives or friends to help prepare some meals, grocery shop or visit with you regularly. Think of other errands or tasks to delegate so that you can carve out more time for yourself during the week.

3. Exercise and eat right.

Staying physically active helps lower stress and reduces risks for serious health problems, including heart disease and diabetes. So does eating a healthy, low-fat diet. Besides, your loved one with Alzheimer’s can benefit from both of these practices too. Make healthy meals and fitness activities a regular part of your caregiving routine.

4. Educate yourself.

Take classes to advance your caregiving skills and knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association provides a list of online workshops, certification options and local training programs.

5. Relax.

From deep breathing exercises, to yoga classes, to meditation — relaxation can lower stress, calm your mind and boost your energy.

6. Stay social.

Keep up with your favorite hobby, or try a new one. Meet with friends and plan activities outside of your caregiving routine so that you have something to look forward to each week as a break from your other responsibilities.

7. See your doctor.

Neglecting your regular check-ups can lead to serious health problems. Be sure to see your doctor for annual visits, and be aware of any signs of long-term stress and burnout, such as fatigue, weight gain, insomnia, irritability, poor concentration or inability to cope.

Realize How Much You Already Do

As an Alzheimer’s caregiver, you have the opportunity to deepen a bond with your loved one through your care and compassion.

The challenges may seem to outweigh the rewards on many days. Nevertheless, acknowledge how much you do even on the toughest days, when it seems like nothing is going right. Also, be sure to try some of the options above to help balance all those overwhelming responsibilities with your own needs and your own health.

How do you keep your life in balance as an Alzheimer’s caregiver? Share your tips in the comments below.

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Please leave your thoughts and comments

  • Charlotte Lloyd

    I am the sole caregiver for my husband – there is no one to help out. I am against the ACA aka Obamacare but because of it i finally qualified for Medicaid. I did not before – I think all caregivers who meet the financial qualifications, should be eligible cause keeping us healthy is cheaper than nursing homes. I ignored the spotting I was having for a year mainly because I had no insurance. I finally went to the doctor in January, had a D & C in March which came back positive for precancer. Because of my medical and family history it did not surprise me. I am having surgery again the 28th to get rid of all those female organs! The doctor told me at the pre-op meeting if I had waiting a year it would have turned to actual cancer.

    • anita

      Why are you against the affordable health care act if it helped you?

      • Gjt

        I think we all know why. It is a shame that even when it serves an overwhelming and obvious need, some people can’t appreciate it because of the source. What a pity.

  • Jodi

    Like Charlotte, below, I have been the sole caregiver for my husband for about one year. Despite my husband having three children, they have not been available to help. They are too involved in their own lives. My husband has abusive dementia. It has not only been heartbreaking to realize I will never have the man I married back again, but also frightening to wonder if he might actually follow through on some of his threats. I live on pins and needles minute to minute, every day. It seems obvious that as caregivers we mustn’t forget to take care of ourselves, but the reality is, there is simply no time to do so. My husband will not allow home aides into the house. I continue to struggle, hoping that all the specialists he has seen will give us some solution. I have learned that caregiving is the most difficult job in the world.

    • K.Kraft

      My mother was quadriplegic and lived for 27 yrs as such. My father had dementia for 15 yrs and just passed in Feb. My 5 siblings and I managed to keep them in the home for 42 years! A great source of support came from the V.A. Because it was the V.A., seemed to my father I believe, to be more supportive and o.k. to have the help. That opened the door to eventual 24/7 outside care;a logistics nightmare but it can be done. God bless u all as yes this is the most difficult job of all.

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