Posts Tagged ‘stress’

Could a Therapist Help You? When to Consider Getting Professional Help

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Some Indications You Might Benefit From Seeing a Therapist: There are several situations in which people can benefit from therapy. Two important ones for Alzheimer’s caregivers are:  When you feel overwhelmed by your stress or  when you are seriously depressed.

Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.

Stress: The Alzheimer’s Association lists the following as symptoms of caregiver stress:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Social withdrawal
  4. Anxiety
  5. Depression
  6. Exhaustion
  7. Sleeplessness
  8. Irritability
  9. Lack of concentration
  10. Health problems

Depression: Some of the symptoms of depression are the same as those for stress. The Alzheimer’s Association lists the following symptoms of depression:

  1. Becoming easily agitated or frustrated
  2. Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  3. Feelings of hopelessness
  4. Thought of death, dying or suicide
  5. Disturbed sleep
  6. Fatigue or loss of energy
  7. Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
  8. Difficulty thinking or concentrating
  9. Changes in appetite or weight
  10. Physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and pain.

Everyone knows that Alzheimer’s caregiving is almost always stressful and depressing. Virtually EVERY caregiver has more than one of the above symptoms. So how do you know if you could benefit from professional help? I would suggest you consider it whenever you have one or more of the above symptoms, they are significantly interfering with your daily life, and nothing else has helped (such as a support group, group therapy, respite care, pastoral counseling, etc.)

Some Examples of Specific Ways a Therapist Can Help You: Therapists can help people in many ways. Three important ones for Alzheimer’s caregivers are:

  1. Help you overcome your denial and come to terms with your situation
  2. Help you manage your depression better (if you are depressed)
  3. Help you improve your stress management techniques

 

Caregiving May Be Wrecking Your Health

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

What many Alzheimer’s caregivers don’t realize is that carrying out their duties may be creating chronic stress, which can lead to a significant decline in physical and mental health.

Alzheimer’s caregivers typically fail to pay attention to their own health. They may fail to fill prescriptions, they state they have not gone to the doctor as often as they should.

Caregivers have an increased number of emergency room visits and use of all types of health services. Furthermore, “caregivers have an increase ($4,766 per year) in healthcare costs associated with their caregiving.

Not surprisingly, caring for someone with dementia is particularly challenging, causing more severe negative health effects than other types of caregiving.

Mental Health Effects of Caregiving

When compared to their non-caregiving counterparts, family caregivers report highler levels of stress/distress, depression, emotional problems, and cognitive problems. Between 40 – 70 percent of caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression. This depression is not only significant in iitself, it can lead to physicial problems as well.

Physical Health Effects of Caregiving

Physical ailments common to caregivers include chronic pain such as headaches and backaches, and weakened immune systems.

Other problems include chronic conditions (including heart attack/heart disease, cancer, diabeter and arthritis). Also, Alzheimer’s caregivers have increased rates of physical ailments (including acid reflux, headaches, and pain/aching), increased tendency to develop serious illness, and high levels of obesity and bodily pain. Another physical ailment is a diminished immune response, which leads to frequent infection and increased risk of cancers.

Finally, strained caregivers have a 63 percent greater chance of death within 4 years as compared to non-caregivers.

My next blog post will focus on what caregivers can do to protect their physical and mental health from all of these illnesses.

 

 

Nursing Home Placement: Damned If You Do; Damned If You Don’t

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

I’m talking here about placing your loved one with Alzheimer’s in a care facility. Virtually no one wants to do it and few if any people with dementia want to go.

What if you have to work full-time and can’t provide the 24/7 care dementia patients require – especially those in the later stages of the disease? What if you can’t afford an in-home care service that could help make it possible for the person to remain at home?

There are other considerations as well. Your loved one may habitually forget to turn off the stove, leading to a risk of fire. He or she may be up all night, causing you to be up as well. You may both become sleep deprived – a serious health risk for both of you. You have to consider your own health, not only for your well-being but because you can’t provide good care for the patient if you’re exhausted all the time.

Sometimes nursing home placement is the best (or even only) solution for your benefit and the benefit of the person you’re caring for. But many people feel like institutionalizing their loved one is a cop out – virtually a crime. They feel it would be tantamount to abandoning the person they love most in the whole world.

If you do it you may feel terribly guilty. But if the person really needs to be in a facility for his or her own safety and well-being you may end up feeling even more guilty if you don’t do it. If something happens to your loved one – such as wandering off or sustaining an injury from a fire or other hazard, you’ll never forgive yourself. And that’s the crux of it. Damned if you do; damned if you don’t.

So how do you decide what’s best? I suggest you ask yourself two questions: 1) Would being in a facility provide your loved one with better care, more personal attention, more opportunities for socialization and – especially – greater safety? and 2) Is taking care of the person at home wrecking your own physical and mental health? If you answered “yes” to either one of these questions it may be time to start looking for a good facility.

10 Symptoms of Caregiver Stress

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

If you experience any of these signs of stress on a regular basis, make time to talk to your doctor. 

  1. Denial about the disease and its effect on the person who’s been diagnosed.  “I know mom’s going to get better.”
  1. Anger at the person with Alzheimer’s or others, anger that no cure exists or anger that people don’t understand what’s going on. “If he asks me that question one more time I’ll scream!”
  1. Social Withdrawal from friends and activities that once brought pleasure. “I don’t care about getting together with the neighbors anymore.”
  1. Anxiety about facing another day and what the future holds. “What happens when he needs more care than I can provide?”
  1. Depression that begins to break your spirit and affects your ability to cope. “I don’t care anymore.”
  1.  Exhaustion that makes it nearly impossible to complete daily tasks. “I’m too tired to do this.”
  1. Sleeplessness caused by a never-ending list of concerns.  “What if she wanders out of the house or falls and hurts herself?”
  1. Irritability that leads to moodiness and triggers negative responses and actions. “Leave me alone!”
  1. Lack of concentration that makes it difficult to perform familiar tasks. “I was so busy I forgot we had an appointment.”
  1. Health problems that begin to take their toll, both mentally and physically. “I can’t remember the last time I felt good.”

Source:  Alzheimer’s Association (www.Alz.org)

 

Dealing With Family Strife

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

When you’re the primary caregiver for a person with Alzheimer’s, no one else in the family will truly understand what you’re going through.

In families where there is good will, conflicts can typically be worked through for the common good. Some general strategies include:

  1. Sharing responsibilities among family members
  2. Meeting regularly to discuss care issues
  3. Being honest in discussions
  4. Not being critical of each other
  5. Joining a support group for Alzheimer’s caregivers
  6. Seeking family counseling if needed

However, in families where people didn’t get along well before the diagnosis, it can create nightmares, especially for the primary caregiver. Here are some additional things you can try:

Be Patient and Understand Where They’re Coming from:  Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and understand why they lack knowledge of the situation. If you can stay calm you’ll have a better chance of decreasing stressful interactions. 

Educate Your Relatives about the Patient’s Condition: It can help if you make very detailed lists of the person’s dementia symptoms and behaviors and share them with other family members. Remember, they’ve never seen the person do many things you see on a daily basis, so put down even the smallest details. Update and share these lists frequently.

Have Other Family Members Care for the Patient for Awhile:  The best way to let other family members get a better understanding of the loved one’s condition is to have them take care of the person for a while. Ideally, this would be for a week or two while you go on vacation, not just for an afternoon while you’re at a movie. Almost anyone can deal with a person with demented for a few hours. Let them take care of the person for a couple of weeks and you may find you’re being criticized less and appreciated more.

 

 

 

 

10 Ways to Be a Healthier Caregiver

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

In my last post I listed ten signs of caregiver stress. Today I’m listing ten ways to address this stress and be a healthier caregiver, taken from the Alzheimer’s Association Website – www.Alz.org.

Please visit this site for a PDF brochure that contains far more detailed information about each of the ten items below. It also has a wallet card with the symptoms of stress so you can do a daily stress checkup. The other side of the card has the Alzheimer’s Association phone number to call for reliable information and support. (1-800-272-3900)

Ten Ways to Be a Healthier Caregiver

1. Understand what’s going on as soon as possible.

2. Know what community resources are available to you.

3. Become an educated caregiver.

4. Get help.

5. Take care of yourself.

6. Manage your level of stress.

7. Accept changes as they occur.

8. Make legal and financial plans.

9. Give yourself credit, not guilt.

10. Visit your doctor regularly.

Stressful Feelings We’ve Had

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

What was the single most stressful concrete problem you had to solve as a caregiver for your loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease?  Was it taking away the car keys? Was it convincing your loved one to move to an assisted living facility? Dealing with long-distance family members who weren’t around often enough to see the signs and understand how serious the situation actually was? Or was it engaging hospice services or making end-of-life care decisions?

For me it was finding a way to get Ed into a long-term care facility. This proud and fiercely independent man was adamantly opposed to moving to any institution. I begged, pleaded, cajoled, even threatened him – all to no avail. Then I made plans to admit him against his will, but found I didn’t have the courage to follow through. Finally, one day he was so confused he forgot about his opposition to moving, and I rushed him to the facility before he could change his mind. For me, this was the most stressful problem I faced during the entire seven-year period of caring for him.

Tell us about yours and how you solved it.

Stressful Problems We’ve Had to Solve

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

What was the single most stressful concrete problem you had to solve as a caregiver for your loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease?  Was it taking away the car keys? Was it convincing your loved one to move to an assisted living facility? Dealing with long-distance family members who weren’t around often enough to see the signs and understand how serious the situation actually was? Or was it engaging hospice services or making end-of-life care decisions?

For me it was finding a way to get Ed into a long-term care facility. This proud and fiercely independent man was adamantly opposed to moving to any institution. I begged, pleaded, cajoled, even threatened him – all to no avail. Then I made plans to admit him against his will, but found I didn’t have the courage to follow through. Finally, one day he was so confused he forgot about his opposition to moving, and I rushed him to the facility before he could change his mind. For me, this was the most stressful problem I faced during the entire seven-year period of caring for him.

Tell us about yours and how you solved it.

Alzheimer’s and Family Strife

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Having a loved one with Alzheimer’s can create tremendous stress in families. In families where there is generally good will, conflicts can typically be worked through for the common good. However, in families where people didn’t get along well before the diagnosis, it can create nightmares, especially for the primary caregiver.

The situation can become worse if some family members live out of town and only see the loved one for short, infrequent visits. They just don’t have the opportunity to witness the severity and frequency of demented behaviors you deal with every day. 

You may find you’re being criticized unfairly for the care you’re providing even though you’re doing a heroic job and making major sacrifices in your personal life to do so. This can lead to bitterness and create extreme disharmony in the family.

Here are a few things you can try to reduce the friction:   

1)      Be Patient and Understand Where They’re Coming from:  Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and understand why they lack knowledge of the situation. If you can stay calm you’ll have a better chance of decreasing stressful interactions.

2)      Educate Others about the Patient’s Condition: Make very detailed lists of the patient’s dementia behaviors and share them with family members. Remember, they’ve never seen many of the things you see on a daily basis. Update these lists and share them frequently.

3)      Have Others Care for the Patient for Awhile:  The best way to let other family members understand the loved one’s condition is to have them take care of the patient for awhile. Afterwards you may find you’re being criticized less and appreciated more.

Go to this Mayo Clinic article (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers/AZ00027) for more information on this topic.