Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Taking Care of the Caregiver

Earlier this week Dr. Marc Ringel appeared on a Colorado public radio station in a piece called “The Hardest Job There Is.” It was about the physical, mental and emotional toll of caring at home for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a piece that every primary caregiver – and right now there are 10 million of them across the U.S.A. – can relate to.

Consider this passage:

Out of love, and sometimes for financial reasons too, people make the most amazing efforts to keep demented elderly out of institutions. In early stages of disease, there may be no more challenge than to keep an eye on a forgetful housemate some of the time. The need for supervision will inevitably progress as confusion and wandering come into play, to the point that a competent person needs to be present 100% of the time.

Caring for the Caregiver also was the theme of last week’s Town Hall Forum in San Diego. Among the speakers was Alejandra Ceja-Aguilar, director of education and outreach for the Southern Caregiver Resource Center. This week we’re going to feature some of her tips to help caregivers stay well themselves so that they can be of benefit to those who depend on them.

Four Steps to Help Reduce Caregiver Stress

1. Recognize the Warning Signs of Stress
Trouble focusing
Difficulty making decisions
Change in sleep habits
Feel overwhelmed
Feeling edgy and irritable
Becoming isolated
Consuming sleeping pills, alcohol or caffeine
Feeling hopeless or helpless

2. Identify the Stressors Individually
Do you feel angry when you can’t go for a walk because there’s no one to look after your father? Do you feel tired in the mornings because you couldn’t sleep the night before?

3. Explore Potential Solutions to Each Stressor
Ask for help and accept help. People want to do it and you must recognize you need the help. Be specific and clear with your requests, such as asking a neighbor to stay with your mom while you run to the grocery store.

4. Implement a Solution That Will Work for Each Stressor

Remember to focus on each stressor individually; the entire picture can be quite scary.

Always remember that you cannot change the condition, only the way you respond to it.

KUNC Audio/Transcript: The Hardest Job There Is