Caring for a loved one with dementia can be overwhelming. According to the Alzheimer Society Canada, of the 8.1 million Canadians (28%) who care for a family member or friend, nearly half a million are caring for someone with dementia. For caregivers, witnessing the decline of a loved one can be painful. If you or anyone you know is caring for a loved one with dementia, it may be helpful to recognize the signs of stress.
SIGNS OF CAREGIVER STRESS
You may hear yourself say, “I’m too tired.”
Quality sleep can be hard to come by when you’re dealing with a long list of concerns. Often, the later stages of cognitive decline can be overwhelming. Normal daily tasks seem nearly impossible to complete. Such exhaustion can lead to caregiver stress, including agitation, moodiness, and negativity.
2. Brain fog.
You may hear yourself say, “I’m sorry. I was so busy I forgot we had an appointment.”
The never-ending list of caregiver responsibilities can distract from obligations and commitments. A lack of concentration is a sign you may be overwhelmed.
3. Health problems.
You may hear yourself say, “I can’t remember the last time I felt good.”
The culmination of emotions, stress, and lack of sleep can begin to take a toll on caregivers. Family caregiver responsibilities can be overwhelming, exhausting, and even affect your health. The Canadian Institute for Health Information suggests anyone experiencing any of these symptoms on a regular basis should see a doctor.
You may hear yourself say, “If she tells me again, I’ll scream!”
It’s common to feel upset over a loved one’s deteriorating cognition, as if they could fight through it if they only tried harder. But many caregivers may direct anger inward, wishing they could do more.
You may hear yourself say, “I don’t really care about dinner with friends anymore.”
Responsibilities can remove us from the things we enjoy. Soon, family caregivers start to socially withdraw. On one level, caregivers know that they aren’t alone, but many feel like they are the only one going through these challenges and no one else will understand.
You may hear yourself say, “I just don’t care anymore.”
Feelings of helplessness can break your spirit and affect your ability to cope. Prolonged sadness may lead to depression, thoughts of suicide or death. Luckily, there are many resources to help, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.
MANAGE CAREGIVER STRESS
• Adult day programs, in-home assistance and meal delivery are a few services that can help caregivers through rough times. A couple hours of assistance from Serenity Home Care is a great place to start.
• When you feel overwhelmed, call someone. Don’t shy away from seeking support from family, friends, and other family caregivers. Tell them what they can do to help.
• Become an educated caregiver. New skills may be needed as the disease progresses. You may want to find training resources that can help you better understand and cope with the behaviours and personality changes that may occur.
• Spend time on your own well-being. Visit your doctor regularly. Watch your diet. Exercise at least 10 minutes each day. You can also spend at least 30 minutes a week with friends, family, and activities you love. And get plenty of rest.