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Support for Caregivers of a Loved One with Dementia

Four Seasons understands that caring for your loved one living with dementia is difficult. You are not alone, and Four Seasons is here to help you. Included in this blog post, you’ll find helpful information about how to care for yourself, how Four Seasons can support you, and additional resources as you navigate this difficult journey. Request care from Four Seasons at any time online or by phone.

Caring for Caregivers

In a recent article, Hospice News reports that more than “40 million adults provide palliative care for family members.” Caregivers are often responsible for not only the elevated level of care their loved one needs, but also the duties of their own life all at once. And while this support is critical for someone living with dementia, providing this level of care is taxing on caregivers’ physical and mental health.

The Toll of Being a Caregiver

The physical health effects of being a caregiver can be severe: “1-in-5 caregivers report fair or poor health, with common ailments including heart disease and stroke” (Hospice News). Emotional and mental health can also suffer significantly in caregivers as they often lose sleep and carry significant amounts of grief as they witness the suffering of their loved one. In fact, the toll of caregiving is so great, that in 2021, the CDC designated caregiving as a growing public health issue (Hospice News).

Being a caregiver can also take a financial toll. Caregivers often have to travel frequently, help pay for medications, visits to the doctor, and other care expenses. They also may have to miss work to provide care for their loved one, causing them to lose income.

Caregivers are Often Overlooked

Although care decisions and delivery are increasingly occurring within a patient’s home, the healthcare system frequently overlooks the contribution and burden of the family caregiver (Hospice News). As a result, there is a lack of support for caregivers who are struggling and need help. When family caregivers feel burned out, overwhelmed, and exhausted, it can lead to more visits to the ER and an overall decline in the ultimate goals for the patient’s health. (Hospice News).

What are Some Causes and Signs of Caregiver Stress?

Caring for yourself as the caregiver is not selfish. It is important to keep your own physical and mental health in check while caring for your loved one so that you can provide the best care to them and yourself. Exhaustion and frustration can ultimately be harmful for both you and your loved one.

Some immediate causes of caregiver stress include:

  • Lack of acceptance about the disease and its effects on you and your family
  • Taking on more tasks than what is healthy or possible
  • Blaming yourself for things outside of your control
  • Focusing on negative thoughts
  • Not making time for yourself to process emotions and relieve stress

Some indicators that you are experiencing stress as a caregiver include:

  • Feeling irritable, angry, and frustrated
  • Feeling alone, anxious, and depressed about the future
  • Not engaging with people or activities you usually enjoy
  • Inability to concentrate or experiencing “brain fog”
  • Experiencing health problems, sleeplessness, or extreme exhaustion

Tips for Managing Your Health as a Caregiver

Stay Healthy and Positive

  • Schedule breaks and relaxation for yourself
  • Eat a healthy diet and regular exercise
  • Prioritize sleep
  • Learn to accept your feelings. It is normal to experience them and okay to allow yourself to feel them fully. You may even find a counselor to be helpful during this time.

Be Realistic

  • Learn about the disease and what to expect as it progresses
  • Set reasonable goals and know your limits
  • Focus on the things you can change rather than the things you cannot

Ask for Help

  • Find people who are able and willing to assist you with some tasks on your plate
  • Consider joining a caregiver group where others are walking the same journey
  • Enroll in an additional level of care for your loved one with Four Seasons or similar Palliative or Hospice Care provider

How Four Seasons Supports the Caregiver

 

Care Navigation

Dementia Care Navigation emphasizes person-centered, empowered support throughout the dementia journey. Care Navigators have a deep understanding of dementia care, caregiver and patient needs, and the type of support that is most helpful to both. Caregivers can experience “information overload,” making them feel lost and overwhelmed. Care Navigators can help you and your loved one process and organize this onslaught of information, helping you to overcome challenges and hurdles in the medical system and in the symptoms your loved one may experience. Additionally, Care Navigators can help with Advance Care Planning and family mediation so that you do not have to make those decisions alone.

Palliative Care

Palliative Care may ease some of the burden and help improve the quality of life for you and your loved one by providing an additional layer of support. Four Seasons offers person-centered Palliative Care wherever you call home to relieve symptoms of dementia including sleeplessness, restlessness, depression, anxiety, and much more. We provide medication review to help maximize the benefits and minimize the burdens of medical interventions. We also have a provider on-call 24/7 to answer your questions. Our team can secure medical equipment for you and connect you with community resources.

We also offer emotional support throughout this journey for you as the caregiver and assist you in preparing for “what’s next” which may include memory care or Hospice Care.

Hospice Care

Hospice Care is a type of specialized medical care providing pain and symptom management, emotional, and spiritual support to patients who are no longer seeking curative treatment and for whom life expectancy is 6 months or less.

Hospice Care provides pain and symptom management, emotional and spiritual support, as well as grief counseling for the patient, caregiver, and family. Some of the ways in which we help are to:

  • Support patient and family goals and wishes
  • Manage pain, symptoms, and medications
  • Provide comfort care
  • Facilitate complex decision making through a supportive interdisciplinary team
  • Provide Grief Support and Spiritual Care for Family members

Grief Services

Four Seasons Grief Services exists to provide an environment that permits grief to exist so that it can complete its’ work. We believe that grieving is experiential, not cognitive.  In other words, we encourage an active grieving process, rather than one that is talked about. Our clinicians are trained in various evidence-based modalities that effectively assist those who experience not only normal, but also complicated grief.  With these skills we seek to provide individualized care to address the unique aspects of each client’s grief. You may request to speak with one of our counselors at any time.

Resources for Caregivers

Alzheimer’s Association: One of the leading experts in Alzheimer’s research, risk reduction, early detection, and quality care, the Alzheimer’s Association provides a robust library of caregiver and patient resources for navigating the challenges of dementia. Even if your loved one is diagnosed with a different type of dementia, you may find helpful resources here.

National Institute on Aging: A governmental resource, the National Institute on Aging provides information and resources about relevant questions you may have about dementia and dementia care.

NPHI’s Dementia Care Patient & Caregiver Resource Guide: This free, downloadable guide provides extensive, in-depth dementia caregiver support including specific symptom management tips, medication information, tips for caring for yourself as the caregiver, checklists and worksheets, and much more.

Family Caregiver Alliance: Provides caregiver support on a wide variety of topics you may find yourself challenged by as you walk this journey.

Four Seasons: Request care today from Four Seasons for any of our services so that we can support you. You are never alone at Four Seasons