Published on: December 2, 2016
by Women’s Brain Health Initiative:
Caregivers often get so good at living with chronic stress that they don’t know they are in trouble themselves until it’s too late. If your mother (or father) is caring for an elderly parent with dementia (or you are), you may be at high risk for developing mental or physical health problems of your own. Here are some signs to recognize if a caregiver is burning out.
Bugs are catching up – Colds, flus, illnesses that come more often and stick around too long, all are signs that the caregiver is getting run down. Caregiving is taking a toll on the immune system.
Caregiver superhero – She tries to do everything herself. When you ask if you can help, there is always some reason why she has to handle it herself. She’s not giving herself a proper break.
Have you heard from mom? – It is too common for primary caregivers to lose touch with other family members and friends. Caregiving becomes an all-consuming task, leaving them feeling isolated.
Joyless glasses of wine – If you notice that your mom or other caregiver is drinking or smoking more than usual, or using drugs in a way not prescribed by their doctor, that’s a sign that they are not coping well.
She’s just not herself – As caregiver stress takes hold, a caregiver might have mood swings, furious one minute and despairing the next. Listen for expressions of overwhelm, anxiety or depression.
Brain fog is creeping in – If a caregiver seems unfocused,
can’t concentrate and has difficulty problem solving, that’s a sign that they are burning out.
What you can do…
“Have a family meeting,” says Dr. Laura Gitlin, Founding Director of the Centre for Innovative Care in Aging at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, “family caregivers have a hard time articulating what they need. Ask the caregiver to go through their daily routine and pinpoint what is most overwhelming, what can be taken away.”
Divide up the caregiving duties to offer some respite. Community services and adult day programs can also alleviate some of the burden.
Dr. Gitlin also points out that young adults tend to have a different relationship with people with dementia. “They can really be with the person in the moment, more so than older caregivers who come with the history and knowledge of what the person used to be able to do, which is painful.” Precious little time between grandparents and their grandchildren, listening to music or watching a show, is not only good for the family dynamic overall, it lets caregivers enjoy some worry-free time.
Practical Tips for Dementia Caregiving
1 Don’t take it personally – When your mom or dad lashes out, gets stubborn or behaves erratically, understand that it’s the disease talking. The mannerisms may be the ones you know from childhood, but your parent has no appreciation of how they are acting.
2 Step into your parent’s shoes – For insights into puzzling behaviour, look at a situation through the eyes of your parent. One son politely knocked on his mother’s door, making her so agitated that he had to leave. When he returned, he walked straight in without incident. He realized later that by knocking, she assumed he was a stranger.
3 Become a semi-professional sleuth – Questioning your parent about what they are doing or why can make them feel invaded. Instead, reduce the upset by sleuthing around. Piece together what is happening and simply look after it.
4 Find smart ways to meet their needs – Put supports into place in a way that won’t upset your parent. For example, if your know in advance that your mother will be resistant to paying for a housekeeper, tell her it’s a free trial or that you bought her a gift certificate as a treat.
5 Vent to a safe person – Remember Fred Flintstone screaming into a paper bag? Venting is healthy if it’s aimed in the proper place. Write down your negative thoughts and expletives and throw them away. Jennifer McCallum, an Alzheimer Society First Link Coordinator, invites clients to vent via voicemail, which she then deletes. The important thing is not to hold it in.
Source: MIND OVER MATTER
On Mother’s Day, amazing support for women’s brain health and our initiative from Robin Wright, Diane Lane, Trudie Styler, Teddy Sears, Martha Stewart, Tonya Lewis Lee, Marcia Gay Harden, Donna Karan, and Cecile Richards.
Here’s some of the “Best Brain Boosts” we’ve discovered to help women boost their brain health, providing a buffer against cognitive decline.
Thanks to the ongoing support of our partner Brain Canada, and The Citrine Foundation of Canada, Women’s Brain Health Initiative’s newest edition of MIND OVER MATTER has just been published. Loaded with interesting science-based articles, MIND OVER...
The material presented through the Think Tank feature on this website is in no way intended to replace professional medical care or attention by a qualified practitioner. WBHI strongly advises all questioners and viewers using this feature with health problems to consult a qualified physician, especially before starting any treatment. The materials provided on this website cannot and should not be used as a basis for diagnosis or choice of treatment. The materials are not exhaustive and cannot always respect all the most recent research in all areas of medicine.