By Bernard Freeman
Finding out a loved one has a fatal disease introduces a host of emotions. Alzheimer’s can be particularly difficult because the person experiences personality changes, forgets people they know and becomes in many ways a different person. Family members who take on caregiving responsibilities face a host of mental and emotional challenges and need to actively protect their own health as well.
Understand your emotions
Caregivers may feel overwhelmed occasionally (or more than occasionally), as well as a range of emotions, including fear, despair, grief, frustration and anger.
Alzheimer’s never takes a break and will just continue to worsen, so it’s important for caregivers to get the help they need. That means taking time away from the person who is sick, dividing caregiving responsibilities between family members and bringing in outside help if needed and if the family can afford it.
Get emotional support
For your own emotional health, consider seeking support such as time with a counselor or meeting with a support group. The Alzheimer’s Association has early stage support groups for both people who have been diagnosed and their caregivers. If there are none in your area, consider online support groups.
Also build a network of people who can provide support. This can include others in your family or other caregivers, but also look outside the circle of people who know your ill relative — people who you will be able to call on as the disease progresses and you need to reach out to others who can offer that support.
Engage in stress-relieving activities
Make time to go running or to the gym, watch your favorite sports team, crochet, cook, restore a car or do other activities that bring you joy, that help you handle stress or that give you a chance to take a break from the responsibilities of caregiving.
Make taking time for yourself a priority, including healthy eating, exercise and getting enough rest.
Try not to take things personally
Alzheimer’s can cause paranoia and personality changes, as well as increased emotions in the person who is sick that makes them more likely to lash out in frustration or anger as they find themselves less able to do tasks they used to be able to do.
Remember, it is often the disease talking, not the person.