Alzheimer's Caregiver Burnout

Alzheimer’s Family Caregiver Burnout


Alzheimer’s Family Caregiver Burnout is transcribed from video and provides tremendous insight into how to prevent it.  Enjoy!

Hi! I am Mary Alexander from Home Instead Senior Care.  Today I am talking about avoiding (family) caregiver burnout. Let’s talk about ways to cope in dealing with Alzheimer’s patients. Many family caregivers presently care for a parent or spouse who is suffering from some sort of dementia. In fact, the frequency of dementia increases with rising age; from less than 2% for the 65 to 69 year-olds, to 5% for the 75-79 year-olds, and to more than 20% for the 85-89 year olds.

Family Caregiver Burnout

Caring for someone with dementia often requires a great deal of time and patience.  And it can cause great stress to the family caregiver, particularly as memory loss progresses. In fact, according to Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser & Dr. Ronald Glaser, the stress of family care-giving for persons with dementia has been shown to impact a person’s immune system for up to three years after their family care-giving ends. Thus, increasing their chances of developing a chronic illness themselves.

Let’s talk a little bit about what dementia is

While we all will have memory lapses as we age, the term dementia describes a group of symptoms that are caused by changes in brain function. These changes have serious consequences on memory, personality, and behavior. Those with dementia tend to repeat questions, and can become disoriented in familiar places. They neglect personal hygiene or nutrition, or get confused about people or time. It can be caused by many things, some of which are reversible. These include vitamin deficiencies and poor nutrition, reactions to medications, or problems with the thyroid. However, some forms of dementia are irreversible, such as that caused by mini-strokes or Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease occurs when the nerve cells deteriorate in the brain.  This is due to a buildup of plaques and tangles, which actually results in the death of a large number of brain cells. Doctors are not sure why this occurs.  But research is underway to determine causes and cures. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 4.5 million Americans are presently living with Alzheimer’s disease.

This can be physically demanding for the family caregiver

It can also be highly emotional, as your loving relative may eventually look at you like a total stranger. And this despite all of the time and effort you are devoting to their care and well being. Often a senior with this disease can become abusive verbally and physically.  This further compounds the incredible stress for the family caregiver. Richard Schulz, PhD is a Caregiver Stress Expert at the University of Pittsburgh. He warns that family caregivers of relatives with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia are at great risk of suffering from depression, anxiety, frustration, stress, and anger.

Research shows that caregivers of a family member with dementia face particularly stressful demands.  This is because of the length of period of care, the behavioral & cognitive problems, and the extreme impairment of patients with end stage dementia. Therefore, Dr. Schulz advises family caregivers to learn about the challenges they face.  And they should seek assistance early in the care-giving role.

To avoid family caregiver burnout, follow these guidelines:

  1. Understand the disease. Read about the disease and its effects, so you are prepared as it progresses. With your understanding also comes additional patience.  You will realize that the person is not doing this on purpose or to make you angry.  It is a medical condition.
  2. Enter their world. Don’t try to correct a person with Alzheimer’s disease.  Instead, ask them simple questions about their statements. And do so even if they seem strange or about a person who is no longer living. This will make you and your relative feel less frustrated.
  3. Strike a balance. Encourage as much independence as possible. Help the person by prompting them to do things for themselves when possible.  But realize, you will need to step in if your relative’s safety or well-being will be compromised in any way.
  4. Get support. Enlist the help of family and friends to spend time with your loved one, to give you respite. You can also join a local support group for dementia caregivers of those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
  5. Tap into resources. Find professionals in your area to assist with practical, yet emotional tasks.  These can include making senior care decisions, elder law issues, or power of attorney.  In addition, asset management, or creating a will.
  6. Decide on assistance. Family caregivers often find they are spending quantity time versus quality time. Such as doing the shopping, taking the relative to appointments, and cleaning versus spending time with their relatives. Investigate enlisting the help of a professional care-giving service for the everyday tasks. That way, you can spend time with your loved one and appreciate them.
  7. Create a positive and comfortable environment. Distractions, such as street noise, a loud television or radio, could lead to agitation or anxiety.
  8. Use effective communication. Be aware of your rate of speech, pitch, and tone. Try to modify it, so they can best understand you.
  9. Remember to use positive body language. Greet the individual with relaxed facial expressions and shoulders. If you are tensed, the person with dementia or Alzheimer’s may pick up on it.

Certainly caring for a senior loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is challenging. There are a number of helpful Internet sites.  These include, the National Alzheimer’s Association, and Leeza’s Place, where you can find more information, help, and guidance. (End of transcription)

I hope you found this information both helpful and useful.  If you did, please let me know!  Simply leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you.  You may also share it on your favorite social platforms. Thanks!

Be sure to check out my podcast: Alzheimer’s Caregiver Radio.  Subscribe to be notified when new episodes are available.

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