Last Updated: April 18, 2018
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be both emotionally and physically draining. It might seem 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.
Finding Balance as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and the vast majority are being cared for by caregivers at home. The CDC reports that 25% of U.S. adults are providing care to loved ones and that in 2017, the value of this unpaid caregiver activity was an estimated $230.1 billion.
If you want to fulfill all of your duties as a caregiver, how can you balance your health needs with the other demands placed on you?
Here are some suggestions on how you can help balance your health and wellness with your responsibilities as an Alzheimer’s caregiver:
1. 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 friends and relatives to help grocery help, prepare some meals 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.
2. Eat right and exercise.
Staying physically active helps lower stress and reduces risks for serious health problems, including diabetes and heart disease. 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.
3. Educate yourself.
Take classes to advance your caregiving skills and knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association provides a list of certification options, local training programs and workshops.
From deep breathing exercises to meditation to yoga classes, relaxation can boost your energy, calm your mind and lower stress.
5. 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 burnout and stress, such as fatigue, inability to cope, insomnia, irritability, poor concentration and weight gain.
6. 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.
7. 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.
Remember to Recognize 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 with us in the comments below.