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Coping Tips for Dementia Caregiver Stress and Burnout

Dementia is a growing concern in the United States. According to the Population Reference Bureau, dementia cases did see a decline between 2011 and 2019. However, as the large baby boomer population across the US ages, it’s expected that the total number of people with dementia will rise.

People with dementia struggle a lot when it comes to their daily activities and lifestyles. At the same time, those who look after them also struggle to provide care for them. In many cases, the stress of caring for someone with dementia becomes unbearable. This mostly falls on the shoulders of family members. When that happens, caregiver burnout is a very real possibility and can affect their own health.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the challenges posed by this progressive neurological condition can take a toll on Alzheimer’s caregivers. This, in turn, leads to high levels of stress.

A report published jointly by the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement elaborates on this. As per this report, around 60 percent of dementia caregivers believe that they experience high or very high levels of emotional stress when caring for an individual with any form of dementia, especially Alzheimer’s Disease.

Thus, it’s crucial for caregivers to prioritize their own well-being to provide the best care possible, and while this may be difficult, it’s not unachievable. Having said all that, in this article, we will explore some of the most effective strategies to cope with the stress of caring for someone with dementia.

Seek Support to Manage Stress

At some point, caring for someone with dementia will feel very overwhelming. In these circumstances, reach out to people you trust, like family and friends, a caregiver support group, community resources, or other close friends and share your experiences with them. They can lend you their ears and work as outlets so that you can let your emotions out.

Professional Help

Since you are stressed, struggling with your mental health, and probably have anxiety disorders at this point, you should also consider seeking support from a licensed professional counselor for emotional support. According to Texas therapist Farah Vann, professional counseling will take you on a journey of self-understanding and self-awareness. As you develop those skills as the primary caregiver, you’ll gradually become more adept at managing your stress levels.

Zencare-registered stress management therapist Joi Mosley echoes a similar thought. According to her, to better control your stress, you need to train your cognitive and emotional response mechanisms. The best way to achieve that is through counseling so you are better equipped to support the dementia patient in your life.

Adult Day Care

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Also called “Adult Day” is a specialized form of support services designed to help individuals with memory loss who need assistance and supervision during the day. It is a safe and stimulating place for older adults with cognitive impairment.

Adult Day programs range from recreational activities to cognitive exercises to some physical activity. They can be a significant benefit for adult children who benefit from the respite care during that time, helping to relieve their caregiver burden just a bit. Most importantly, these short periods of respite can help the caregiver avoid avoid physical exhaustion with could lead to other health problems.

For individuals living with dementia, an Adult Day experience can be especially beneficial. It can address social isolation and behavioral problems that often accompany dementia caregiving. Social withdrawal can be avoided and emotional health improved when Alzheimer’s caregiving includes an Adult Day visit on a regular basis.

Support Groups

Any caregiving role (even non-dementia caregivers) can be supported through participation in a support group. Sometimes lead by a social worker, an occupational therapist, or other health professionals, local agencies often provide these opportunities to support your caregiving journey. A support group can help you address the stress of caregiving by being able to discuss your challenges with those having similar experiences.

You might find a support group operated by a local organization, or you may find one sponsored by a national institute. They are a great way for those at a higher risk of chronic stress by talking with others in similar situations. This is one of the most important things caregivers can do.

Support groups can be focused around virtually any topic. They all promote a healthy lifestyle to address the higher levels of stress that members experience. All family caregivers of people living with dementia should find a support group and set aside time for yourself to alleviate as much stress as possible.

Educate Yourself

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Understanding the nature of dementia can help you manage the associated stress more effectively. Educate yourself about the condition, its symptoms, and the progression of the disease. By learning about dementia, you can anticipate and prepare for changes in the behavior and cognitive abilities of your aging relative.

Knowledge empowers you to provide better care, reduces uncertainty, and increases your confidence in handling challenging situations as part of your regular caregiving responsibilities. It also helps you keep your stress levels in check as you carry on with your caregiving.

Prioritize Self-Care

Just because you’re taking care of someone else doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t care for yourself. In fact, if you don’t prioritize self-care in these situations, you won’t be able to provide the best possible care. If anything, you might end up losing your calm over them and react badly to them.

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Set realistic goals, but try incorporating different relaxation techniques into your daily lifestyle. Practice mindfulness or meditation when you get the time. Most importantly, just because of your responsibilities, don’t let go of your hobbies. Engage in them as much as you can so that the stress doesn’t build up.

Sleep is equally important to your physical health when you’re a caregiver. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on your required eight to nine hours of sleep a day. If needed, have another caregiver take over for you while you rest. Organizing this support add higher levels of burden to your already long list of caregiving tasks and household chores, but it is well worth the effort!

Most importantly, set up a routine so that you can allocate time for yourself on a daily basis and maintain it properly. Even something a simple as deep breathing exercises can help.

Practice Effective Communication

Communicating with someone with dementia can be challenging, but employing certain strategies can help ease frustration and stress. Use simple and clear language, speak slowly, and maintain eye contact when conversing.

Break down tasks into smaller, manageable steps, and offer choices whenever possible. Non-verbal communication, such as facial expressions and touch, can also be effective in conveying emotions and reassurance. Remember to be patient, listen actively, and validate their feelings.

Effective communication promotes a sense of connection and reduces stress for both you and the person with dementia. Care partners practicing effective communication provide high levels of care. Many benefits follow, like an easier time managing activities of daily living, avoiding your loved one’s loss of interest, an possibly preventing psychosocial interventions.

Concluding Thoughts

When you’re caring for someone with a dementia diagnosis, life is bound to get difficult and a bit messy as well. As all these things start to unravel, the stress is likely to build up and distort your personal life. Unpaid caregivers can show more signs of caregiver stress since it isn’t just “part of the job.”

By sticking to the stress management tips discussed above, you can cope with your stress much better. In doing so, you can also provide better care to those you’re looking after.