Alzheimer's / Dementia

7/29/2022 | By Katharine Ross

Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias can be exhaustive and exhausting. Whether you’re the primary caregiver or the loved one of a caregiver, you may recognize the burnout that comes from such a challenging caregiving role. To help combat that stress, Seniors Guide president Katharine Ross offers three tips for the Alzheimer’s caregiver.

Caregiver burnout is a real thing, especially for family and friends who are caring full time for loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. That role is incredibly demanding.

My family watched our grandfather as he was the daily caregiver for his wife, our grandmother, in her long journey from Alzheimer’s. Pepaw would paint MeMe’s nails. He would do her makeup every morning. He would do her hair every morning – she couldn’t remember how to brush her teeth, much less how to bathe herself. That was a lot of work for Pepaw.

The need for supporting the Alzheimer’s caregiver

As a family wanting to support him through it, we found some ways to help him. We found ways to help him restore his own spirit, because when you’re giving that much of yourself to someone else, you’ve got to fill your cup back up. You give and give and give, and you often don’t give to yourself. If you don’t take the opportunity to find delight in life, you will burn out.

When you’re burnt out as a caregiver, you get impatient, you get frustrated. You’re not taking joy in the person, and they’re going to reflect all of that back to you. They’re going to get frustrated; they’re going to get snippy. It’s just going to be this dynamic that doesn’t lift anybody up.

Related: Communication and Alzheimer’s – loving ways to connect

That’s not what any of us want for our loved ones, so I have three tips for you today on caring for an Alzheimer’s caregiver, someone who is caring for a loved one dealing with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

Three tips for the Alzheimer’s caregiver

#1 – Utilize the expertise and services of the Alzheimer’s Association.

My first tip is to check out your local Alzheimer’s Association. We have worked with the Alzheimer’s Association through Seniors Guide for more than 20 years. The mission of this nationwide group is to make living with Alzheimer’s a little bit easier, while also funding research to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

older couple at home - just a picture of them holding hands. Fizkes Dreamstime. These 3 tips for the Alzheimer’s caregiver can help combat burnout from fulfilling this challenging caregiving role.

They have a couple of different programs that could be really helpful to individuals who are caregiving for someone living with Alzheimer’s.

One is a caregiver support group, available throughout the U.S., both in person and virtual. These groups help caregivers connect with other caregivers and share their journeys with each other. What you’ll find is that you’re not alone. Other people are dealing with the same challenge as you are. There are resources that can help you – when you hear about a resource from another Alzheimer’s caregiver who has struggled with the same thing, it just helps you feel more hopeful in the journey

In addition, the Alzheimer’s Association supports local communities with community resources. They have a 24-hour support line (800-272-3900) with trained care managers who help point you in the direction of the right kind of medical care, to the kind of experts that you should work with in caring for your loved one.

The organization also offers educational programs. They’re always trying to help people deal with different issues and educate them about what to expect in dealing with the Alzheimer’s disease.

#2 – Sign up for adult day options.

Adult daycare centers can give you as an Alzheimer’s caregiver a couple of hours in your day. They watch over Mom, Dad, or your spouse to make sure that they’re safe and occupied, while you take care of you. The centers have programming such as games and entertainment. Some will allow you to pop in for a couple of hours each week in care; some will do as much as 10 to 40 hours a week. The options depend on the individual centers and the individual families.

These programs go by different names in different communities. In the commonwealth of Virginia, for example, many adult day cares are called PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) programs.

Related: A guide to adult day services

#3 – Take a break with respite care.

Another opportunity to help you as an Alzheimer’s caregiver restore yourself is to look into respite care for your loved one.

My family and I would take Pepaw on a cruise every couple of years. We would lean on respite care to take care of MeMe while Pepaw had time away from his day-to-day caregiving responsibilities.

Related: A guide to respite care

Most assisted living communities that focus on memory care offer respite care opportunities. Respite care is a short-term stay, so instead of moving into a memory care community, your loved one goes into respite care for a shorter period, such as a week, so the caregiver can go on vacation or reset their life with a staycation, making the most of their time away knowing that their loved one is well cared for.

Respite programs are fully encompassing. They provide food, they provide programming, they provide care. It’s a really great way to just take a break and treat the caregiver and refill their cup – because caregivers who don’t take care of themselves will diminish their capacity to take care of others.

Katharine Ross

Katharine Ross joined Seniors Guide in 2001 and has been helping seniors and caregivers find the resources they need ever since. She’s had a front row seat to the industry’s evolution in preparing for the demands of baby boomers, and she’s seen how caring and effective providers have navigated the Covid pandemic. She wants to empower seniors and caregivers to create their best lives by having access to the accurate, useful information. When she’s not working, Ross is chasing her son across ski slopes and bike trails.