Taking care of a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease can take a physical and mental toll on you. It is easy to get overwhelmed and to experience burn-out. The stress of serving as a caregiver for a dementia patient can create issues you might not anticipate, unless you have walked this path. There will also be behavior changes that can throw you for a loop, if you are not prepared. If you are a caregiver, you must know the challenges for caregivers dealing with Alzheimer’s.
The Rules Are Different Now
Alzheimer’s is a vicious disease that can change the person you may have known for decades into someone whose behavior you barely recognize. It is vital that you do not get upset and that you try to understand why she is doing the things she is. If you are rigid and inflexible with a dementia patient, you will just frustrate both of you. You must be nimble and flexible.
You will not convince her she must do things your way, so arguing is pointless. If she is unkind or hurtful, try to realize that it is the disease, and that she does not mean it personally. Try to accept who she is now.
Reasons a Person with Alzheimer’s Will Behave Differently
Imagine not recognizing the people around you, the faces of your loved ones, or where you are. A person with dementia might behave in an extreme manner in this terrifying situation. If he struggles to communicate, he might get frantic trying to get his point across, then get frustrated or angry when you do not understand him. Eventually, he might give up and withdraw out of a sense of hopelessness.
Although he has been making his morning coffee and walking the dog for many years, the ravages of Alzheimer’s might render him no longer able to complete these tasks. Losing his abilities can make him depressed or irritable. He might be cranky to those around him, because his environment is too loud or busy, or he might be hurting or uncomfortable because of illness. His medications might make him feel groggy, nauseous, or lightheaded.
Try to sort out the roots of his non-preferred actions, so you can help him be more comfortable. Think of your role as supporting and facilitating him to have the best day he can.
Make Sure to Take Care of Yourself
You cannot take good care of your loved one, if you are about to crack under the stress. Everyone gets fatigued, but here are some signs you need to take a breather and let someone else step in for a while so you can get rest and respite:
- You become short-tempered, blaming the patient for not doing things correctly.
- You feel hopeless and depressed, and lose interest in things you used to enjoy.
- You have difficulty sleeping out of worry she will wander off or get hurt.
- You deny the reality and insist that the dementia is temporary.
- Your physical and emotional exhaustion cause you to miss appointments and cannot concentrate on things in the rest of your life.
Serving as a caregiver for a person with Alzheimer’s is a thankless job that takes a team. You should not try to shoulder the entire load yourself. If you are helping with the patient’s legal planning, talk with an elder law attorney near you, because the laws are different in every state, and this posting is about the general law.
OnHealth. “Alzheimer’s Disease: Caregiving Challenges.” (accessed January 21, 2018) https://www.onhealth.com/content/1/alzheimers_disease_caregiving_challenges
Alzheimer’s Association. “Caregiver Stress.” (accessed January 21, 2018) https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-caregiver-stress-burnout.asp