Thursday, 16 November 2017


I am pleased to host this guest post by Lydia Chan, whose Mom suffers from Alzheimer's. Lydia writes for

The data is in, and there’s no doubt that Alzheimer’s caregivers are exhausted. The University of Michigan and AARP recently teamed up to survey the people who are providing full time care to loved ones with this crippling disease.

The results are a little horrifying. You might expect that caregivers would find their jobs in jeopardy. But it turns out they also ignore their own health. Of caregivers surveyed, 20 percent said their health was poor or only fair. And 7 percent of them said they had neglected or ignored their mental health.

Further, most family caregivers are around the same age as their patients, who are likely to be spouses or siblings in their 60s or older. In this scenario, both caregiver and patient are at risk.

While the vast majority of caregivers reported a certain satisfaction, even joy, in their unpaid work, they also reported a high level of stress. It turns out that the phrase “You deserve a break today” applies more to caregivers than to anyone else. But how do you get that needed break? Read on.

Uncover resources

There are a number of resources for caregivers, but far too few caregivers are taking advantage of them. Online and in person support groups for caregivers offer a great deal of experience and advice for dealing with the financial and legal aspects of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient. These groups also offer a wealth of ideas about how to take a time out.

The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) also helps you look up services close to you. And the AARP has developed an interactive caregiver tool that refers you to solutions.

If you are a churchgoer, don’t be too proud to ask your church for help. The best kind of help you need is someone who doesn’t mind doing whatever is needed: unloading the dishwasher, dressing your patient, and walking the dog, for instance. Churches are so good with this kind of thing, you might consider joining one if you don’t already belong.

Make a dog part of the picture

One of the best ways to decompress is to spend time with your dog. And dogs are virtual miracle workers. Just snuggling with one can lower stress, blood pressure, and improve heart health. Among some demographics, dog ownership even keeps the demons of depression at bay.

For caregivers, the value of a dog is all the greater. If you already have a dog, cherish her. If your dog is particularly patient and gentle, you can also make her part of your loved one’s therapy. Even severely disabled people brighten at the sight of a dog and they get a rush from petting one.

Alzheimer’s patients are eligible for therapy dogs. And, in fact, dogs trained to accompany Alzheimer’s patients can do amazing things for patients in early and mid-stage Alzheimer’s.

These dogs learn to take the patient home when he gets lost and track him if he wanders out of the house. Alzheimer’s working dogs are equipped with GPS, and they will stay with their patient until rescued, so a family member can always locate a loved one who has wandered too far.

A dog, in short, may be good therapy for both you and your patient. Walking a dog is one of life’s great pleasures, but as a caregiver, you won’t always have time, so have a dog walker on call to help you with one of your many obligations.

This month, which is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness and National Family Caregivers Month, we celebrate the unsung heroes of our generation: Those who have taken on the unglamorous and difficult work of caring for someone with cognitive failure. We honor them and, at the same time, we declare they should take some time off for themselves.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

PS: Don't forget my latest Twitter challenge to all my readers (those of you who use Twitter, of course!) - Answer the question "If you had the chance to tell the world one thing about caregiving, what would it be?" and don't forget to add the hashtag, #My1CaregiverTweet. If you're NOT on Twitter head on over to The Caregivers' Living Facebook Page and post your answer there. I'll post it on Twitter for you - let's tell the world about the real realities of giving care! 


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