Are Alzheimer’s caregivers the forgotten?
Special to the Daily
Vail CO Colorado
Most Alzheimer’s caregivers hear people tell them how wonderful they are for taking care of their loved one. As a caregiver, I learned to appreciate these compliments – they help, they really do.
However, if you have a loved one, family member, or friend that is an Alzheimer’s caregiver and all you do is tell them what a great job they are doing, it is not enough. Many Alzheimer’s caregivers are forgotten by family and friends. This is a sad truth that is rarely discussed.
I meet and talk to caregivers all the time. It is not unusual for them to tell me that as time goes on, and as Alzheimer’s worsens, one by one their family and friends fade away. This is understandable — Alzheimer’s is scary and disconcerting. It is hard to accept, hard to understand, and hard to watch as it progresses.
It is not unusual for the friends and family to continue to call and give the caregiver a pat on the back and then they get back to their own lives.
Meanwhile, caregivers put their lives on hold, or worse they have no lives, while caring for an Alzheimer’s sufferer. Calling and letting the caregiver “vent” is helpful, very helpful, but it is not enough.
Like it or not, if you are a family member or friend of an Alzheimer’s caregiver and you are not helping them – you have abandoned them. I am sure this sounds harsh, but it’s not even close to the harshness of your own behavior.
Caregivers need help. A few hours here and there to get away from it all is an important step in improving their lives. Some time to enjoy the world outside their home or reconnect with others.
Forty percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers end up suffering from depression — that’s four out of 10. Do you want to see this happen to a loved one or friend?
Alzheimer’s kills the brain of the person suffering from Alzheimer’s, and it will also try to kill the brain of the Alzheimer’s caregiver.
If you know an Alzheimer’s caregiver, find a way to organize family and friends to get involved.
Nothing works better than a small team of caregivers’ helpers. The key words here are team and team work.
The Alzheimer’s caregiver needs to get away from it all. They need a respite every few days. This means someone must take over while they go do something they enjoy. You might find this difficult to believe, but when I get to go to the store, take my time, and look around at the surroundings, it is a treat.
Invite your Alzheimer’s caregiver and their loved one over for lunch or dinner. Most Alzheimer’s caregivers tell me that one of the biggest problems they face is socialization.
Both the caregiver and patient need to talk and interact with other human beings. Don’t you?
This one is tough to do but could very well keep the caregiver from becoming depressed. Many sufferers of Alzheimer’s get up in the middle of the night. This means the caregiver needs to get up with them. Sleep deprivation often leads to depression and it can cause erratic behavior.
Imagine going night after night without sleeping well. If this is happening to someone you know, you need to help design a plan that allows them to get the sleep they need.
Do you know an Alzheimer’s caregiver? Ask them when was the last time they went to a movie. You might be surprised when you hear the answer .
You can solve this problem through team work: one person looks after the patient, and the other one takes the caregiver to the movie.
This is a “get away from it all experience” that is really beneficial to the mental health of the Alzheimer’s caregiver.
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer’s Reading Room and an Alzheimer’s caregiver. The blog contains more than 2,460 articles with more than 371,100 links on the Internet. He resides in Delray Beach, Fla.