Although it can be one of the most challenging and heartrending experiences anyone can face, caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s or another dementia can also be rewarding.
“Being there for a parent with Alzheimer’s is a loving, selfless act,” says Ruth Drew, director of information and support services for the Alzheimer’s Association. “Caring for a parent who once cared for you can be devastating, but many adult children tell us they consider it a privilege to help a parent navigate their final journey.”
You can take important steps to ensure appropriate care for your loved one, while also reducing the physical, mental and emotional stress that accompanies the demands of caregiving. The Alzheimer’s Association offers these tips:
Become an educated caregiver. Understand the disease, its progression and typical behavioral and physical changes. Resources in your community can help.
Build a support network. Organize friends and family who want to help provide care and support. Reach out to local support groups or online communities to connect with other caregivers. If stress becomes overwhelming, seek professional help.
Find time for yourself. It’s normal to need a break from caregiving. No one can do it all by themselves. Consider arranging respite care or help from family and friends so you can spend time doing something you enjoy. Taking care of yourself will help you be a better caregiver.
Accept changes. Eventually your parent will need more intensive kinds of care. Research options so you are ready as changes occur.
Know you’re doing your best. It’s normal to lose patience or feel as if your care falls short sometimes. You’re trying your hardest in an incredibly tough situation. For support and encouragement, consider joining an online or in-person support group.
“Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, and losing a little more of your parent each day can take a toll,” Drew says. “It’s so important to recognize these feelings and get the support you need, so you don’t put your own health at risk.”
To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and to find resources for caregivers, families and people living with the disease, visit alz.org, the website of the Alzheimer’s Association.
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