At the same time that you are managing the health and day-to-day needs of your loved one, you must not overlook your own health and well-being. Your health can suffer from the stress of round-the-clock responsibilities and the emotional toll of witnessing a disease’s devastating progression in a loved one. Be mindful of your physical, psychological and spiritual needs. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be able to better care for your loved one.
Studies have shown that caregivers who are under chronic (prolonged) stress may have a diminished immune response, which can potentially make them more slow to heal after injury and more susceptible to common infections such as the flu or common cold. To combat this, caregivers need to learn how to manage stress and find ways to relieve the tremendous burden of constant care for a loved one. Don’t become isolated; enlist support from other caregivers, a caregiver support group, family and/or friends so you can carve out time to pursue activities that you enjoy and maintain social connections.
Caring for a loved one is a physically and emotionally draining experience. It may be especially difficult if you are the spouse and have your own illnesses or disabilities to contend with as well as caring for your husband or wife.
Spouse caregivers face increased risks for lowered immunity, heart problems, and chronic health issues. The stress and hardship can lead not only to decreased well-being but also the inability to continue care at home.
Now, results from a 20-year study bring hope. Counseling and social support can be effective ways to protect the health of spouse caregivers. Caregivers who receive the support they need are also less likely to suffer from depression or find it necessary to move a husband or wife to a nursing home.
Caregivers should ask themselves these questions about their own health to evaluate whether they need support:
1) How would you rate your overall physical health at the present time (poor to excellent)
2) Is your health now better, about the same, or worse than it was five years ago (worse/about the same/better)
3) How much do your physical health troubles stand in the way of your doing the things you want to do (a great deal/a little/not at all)?
Many communities or long-term-care facilities offer respite programs that enable caregivers to take needed breaks from caregiving while knowing their loved one is well taken care of. Such services may be available from home healthcare agencies, assisted-living facilities or nursing homes. Enrolling the person with Alzheimer’s in an appropriate adult day care program can also provide a necessary period of respite for the caregiver.
For more information about Alzheimer’s disease or any healthcare concern, contact VITALity Catholic Healthcare Services at 1-888-26VITALity (1-888-268-4825).