Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s? Here’s how to prioritise your own mental health.
26 October 2020
Caregivers who take care of loved ones who have dementia or a memory disorder are most at risk of developing compassion fatigue or depression. They face the overwhelming emotions that come from watching as their loved ones’ disease progresses every day. The fatigue and exhaustion of round the clock dementia care, coupled with increased isolation during a pandemic, all add up. “Mental health needs to be a priority, for the loved ones who have dementia and those who are caring for them. Burnout and depression in caregivers is a real problem, but it is treatable and can be prevented if you know how to spot the signs”, says Sean van Wyk, Quality of Life Manager at Livewell.
What are the signs of depression in caregivers?
- Feeling hopeless, sad, and tearful
- Not enjoying what previously brought joy
- Trouble sleeping or not feeling rested after sleep
- Struggling to get out of bed or other daily tasks like bathing
- Drastic appetite or weight changes
- Anxiety or often being in an agitated state
- Trouble remembering things or concentrating
- Low self-worth
- Recurring thoughts of suicide and death
- Stress manifesting physically as stomach pains, headaches, or other unexplained problems
Lower your risk of developing depression
Many caregivers will feel that a lot of these symptoms simply go along with the difficult task of caring for a loved one who has dementia and may even avoid seeking professional help out of guilt or shame. However, depression is serious and should never be overlooked. It can affect your physical health and your ability to provide the best of care to your loved one.
Here are some ways that you can lower your risk of developing depression related to dementia caregiving.
Dementia day care or holiday care
Respite care services such as dementia day care or holiday care gives caregivers the opportunity to take a break from constant caregiving, while still providing care and a safe place for their loved one. Livewell Estates provide day and holiday dementia care as well as a permanent residence for dementia patients.
Mobility becomes difficult for people with dementia, and some simple adaptations to the home can make life easier for you and the person you care for. Making sure that carpets or mats are placed or glued down properly so that they don’t trip anyone up, or making rooms more accessible for a wheelchair or walking frames by removing clutter and larger furniture. Also installing assistive handles in the bathroom or a shower seat will help the person with dementia to be more independent for longer. It all helps to take some of the tasks out of your hands, as well as to not create more work for you.
Community & support
Emotional support is incredibly important for Alzheimer’s carers. From family and friends to online communities and local dementia support groups, it all helps to combat the isolation and loneliness of caring for a loved one. You can lean on and learn from others, vent your frustrations, and even help others solve their problems. There are plenty of options for online communities, including Livewell Estates own private Dementia Care Support Group which you can join on Facebook or take a look at our latest Wellness Talks on YouTube .
Self care also aids in lowering your risk of developing depression and it comes in many forms. Staying active and eating well helps manage stress and maintain energy levels.
If you have the means, seeing a therapist is also a form of self care and can teach you effective coping strategies to navigate the difficulties of caregiving for someone with dementia. Many therapists now offer online sessions via Skype or Zoom.
If you’re looking for something that can be done at home and won’t cost you anything, mindfulness techniques such as meditation, yoga or creative expression can have a powerful effect on reducing stress and anxiety.
If you believe you may be suffering from depression seek professional help immediately. You can contact SADAG on their 24hr Helpline 0800 456 789.
For more information on Livewell, please visit www.livewell.care
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