Caring For Caregivers

Caring for Caregivers

Caring for someone with dementia is stressful. Studies have shown that caregivers of people with dementia have suppressed immune systems and increased rates of infectious illness, and a higher prevalence of major depressive disorder than non-caregivers (Light, Niederehe, & Lebowitz, 1994). Depressed mood, anger, and resentment toward the person with dementia and toward their responsibilities, as well as subjective feelings of burden are also very common. Self-care is imperative to maintain the caregiving role.

Many family caregivers don’t get the same assistance they may benefit from because they don’t identify themselves as caregivers. Family members may feel that they are simply fulfilling responsibilities as daughter, son, or spouse. While this may be the case, viewing caregiving as solely a family obligation minimizes the enormous amount of work and burden that the role can entail.

There are many resources to help family and professional caregivers. Education about Alzheimer’s disease as well as therapeutic regiments can help caregivers be more realistic in expectations of the person for whom they are caring. Local chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association and many geriatric clinics offer educational seminars and caregiver support groups to relieve the burden of caregiving and foster better coping skills. Many caregivers also benefit from respite by having someone (e.g., family, friend, church parishioner, neighbor, or professional aide) come to help supervise the individual with dementia, enrolling the individual with dementia in an adult day program specializing in dementia, or taking the individual with dementia to a residential care facility for more extended respite breaks. The latter can be very helpful in allowing caregivers to take vacations or attend to personal business for several days to several weeks at a time. Many nursing homes, especially those with specialized dementia services, offer respite care. Though many caregivers report feeling guilty about wanting to take a break, respite helps to manage stress and prevent caregiver burnout.

The above information was provided by the Society of Certified Senior Advisors (SCSA).