All caregivers face stress, but if you’re caring for a loved one with memory impairment, you may be at higher risk. Research from the Alzheimer’s Association indicates that 67% of caregivers caring for a memory-impaired spouse will actually die before their husband or wife. Depression and emotional stress also plague 30 to 40 percent of dementia caregivers, according to NJToday.net.
Education and support can help to ease the stress associated with caregiving. Beth Chassin, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., of the Memory Center at St. Peter’s University Hospital, tells NJToday.net that caregivers are so focused on meeting the needs of their loved one that they often forget to take care of themselves. She also notes a few common factors that can contribute to caregiver stress among this population:
- Friends may stop visiting, because socialization with a memory-impaired patient often becomes uncomfortable.
- The loss of friends results in feelings of isolation and loneliness for the caregiver.
- Caregivers begin to lose so much of themselves that they go through the stages of grief.
- Depression follows, impacting the quality of care.
Surprisingly, the signs of caregiver stress can mimic the early signs of memory impairment. If you’re experiencing any of the following, it could be a sign that stress is beginning to take its toll:
- Frequently misplacing items, such as keys
- Forgetting where you’ve parked the car
- Difficulty beginning simple tasks
- Feeling lethargic
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling frustrated or irritable
The Alzheimer’s Association offers a free and easy to use Caregiver Stress Check. If you’re caring for a loved one with memory impairment, you should take it regularly to gauge your own stress levels. If you feel that you’re becoming overwhelmed, seek outside help before it impacts your own health. Many education and support programs exist for Alzheimer’s caregivers in local communities across the country.
Caregivers sometimes find that the best thing to do for their loved one is to seek outside care. If you’re looking for memory care, use our memory care checklist to help you find the best community for your loved one.
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