Watching the symptoms of Alzheimer’s take a toll on a senior loved one is upsetting. Many Alzheimer’s caregivers end up feeling depressed, exhausted or frustrated, which can lead to other chronic health issues. Research has found, however, that therapy can help to protect the health of Alzheimer’s caregivers.
Tips for Alzheimer’s Caregivers Searching for the Right Therapist
Once you’re committed to going to therapy, you have to face the work of finding the right therapist and setting up your first appointment.
Here are some steps worth taking to help Alzheimer’s caregivers figure out which therapist to meet with:
1. Ask for recommendations.
You can find a lot of information online about the therapists in your area (and we’ll get to that in a later step), but a recommendation from a person you trust that has either been to see a therapist themselves or has heard them recommended by a friend is a good way to learn that they’re respected and trustworthy.
If you feel comfortable doing so, ask family members and friends to see if any of them has a therapist they really like. Your doctor can also be a good resource (and one you know will respect your privacy if that’s a concern). If you don’t feel comfortable letting other people know you’re considering therapy, that’s okay.
2. Consider your preferences.
Therapy is a very personal experience, so think about who you’d feel more comfortable talking to – whether that’s someone of a certain age range or gender. Knowing what you prefer will make it easier to evaluate the therapists you consider and decide which ones are likely to be the best fit for you.
3. Find out what your health insurance covers.
Many health insurance plans cover therapy and so does Medicare. If you have a plan that includes mental health services like therapy, then it’s worth first looking into the therapists in your area that are covered, so you’re not spending more than you have to.
If your health insurance doesn’t cover mental health at all or only has a limited network, don’t worry. A lot of therapists provide a sliding scale to help people with limited incomes better afford it.
4. Narrow options based on availability and cost.
By this point, you should have been able to compile a list of good candidates that sound like they may be a fit for you. Congratulations! You’re almost there.
Now you want to start getting in touch to find out what kind of availability they have and what they charge. If there are one or two therapists that you especially like the look of, start with them and find out if they can fit you into their calendar at times that work for you and if they offer a rate you can afford.
5. Research based on specialty.
Therapists often have particular specialties. Many focus on areas that may be relevant to you: aging issues, anger management, depression, relationship issues and stress management, to name a few examples. In this step, you both want to research the therapists you learned about from recommendations and looking into who was in your network, as well as looking up new therapists in your area.
You’ll probably get the best advice from someone that specializes in the types of issues you’re currently dealing with. You can use websites like HelpPro and Psychology Today to find therapists based on the areas they work in and the specialties they offer.
While it can get a little more complicated, you can also look into the different types of therapy approaches psychologists take to see if one sounds like a better fit for you than another. These include:
- Behavior therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Cognitive therapy
- Humanistic therapy
- Psychoanalytical therapy
6. Set up a phone consultation.
Many therapists will provide a free phone consultation so you get the chance to chat and see if you both feel it’s a good fit. Some therapists even require this step. Before you have your call, think about some of the questions you want to ask to get a feel for how they conduct therapy and whether or not they’ll be a good match for what you’re looking for. If you’re brand new to the idea of therapy and don’t even know enough to know what questions to ask, bring that up. How they respond to that will tell you a lot about how they work.
Remember: You’re not stuck with the first one you try.
If you don’t think the first therapist you meet with is a good fit, you don’t have to keep going back to them. It’s not rude to have a preference and therapy is important – you get to be picky. Just let them know you’d prefer not to schedule another appointment and go back to your list to see who you want to try out next. Set up another phone consultation and keep at it. Some Alzheimer’s caregivers have to spend some time looking before they find a therapist that’s a really good fit for them; others are happy with the first one they meet. There’s nothing wrong with either, you’ll just have to put a little more work in if you’re in the first category.
It’s worth it though. Therapy can make a big difference in how you handle the pain and stress of helping your loved one with Alzheimer’s and it can help you figure out how to keep an active, happy life going outside of those duties – so don’t let the work of getting it done keep you from getting started.
Are you an Alzheimer’s caregiver? How has therapy helped you in your caregiving journey? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.