Take Care of Yourself

Providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease takes a tremendous toll on the physical and emotional health of the primary caregiver

How are you sleeping at night? Fine. How many times do you get up during the night? Not many. How many times were you up last night? Oh, twelve. It’s just another sleepless night for the Alzheimer caregiver.

Providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease takes a tremendous toll on the physical and emotional health of the primary caregiver, yet many caregivers often don’t recognize the warning signs, or deny its effects on their health. Many caregivers tend to set their own needs aside while caring for the person with Alzheimer’s disease and hope that if they don’t think about it, the stress might just go away.

Dr. Julie Chandler, a physician in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, says, “Fatigue is one of the major things that I see. People reaching the end of the rope in terms of their patience. Some of this is related to fatigue, because if you’re constantly tired from being up all night with the person with Alzheimer’s disease, how can you possibly be patient with them even though that’s what they need?”

Caregiver stress is a normal part of Alzheimer caregiving. There are steps you can take to reduce it but first, you must recognize it.

If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of caregiver stress, it is important to seek help. The person under stress should go to the doctor for regular check-ups. Ask family members and friends for their help and support. Take advantage of community programs that provide respite and relief from caregiving, practical help with meals or housework and assistance with the care of the person with Alzheimer’s disease. And plan ahead for both the immediate future and the long term. These are just some of the things caregivers can do to make their lives a bit easier.

The Alzheimer Society can help with services such as support groups, counselling, information resources and MedicAlert® Safely Home®, the Society’s wandering registry. The Society also funds research into improved methods of caregiving and service delivery, as well as research into the cause and cure of Alzheimer’s disease.

10 warning signs of stress

Taking care of someone with dementia requires time and energy. It can be a demanding and stressful task. Knowing and recognizing the signs of stress in yourself or someone you care about is the first step toward taking action.

If the following symptoms occur on a regular basis, call your doctor or contact your local Alzheimer Society for help.

  1.  ..about the disease and its effect on the person with the disease. “Everyone is overreacting. I know Mom will get better.”
  2. ..at the person with Alzheimer’s disease, yourself and others.  “If he asks me that question once more I will scream!”
  3. Withdrawing socially…you no longer want to stay in touch with friends or participate in activities you once enjoyed.  “I don’t care about getting together with friends anymore.”
  4. ..about facing another day and what the future holds. “I’m worried about what will happen when I can no longer provide care.”
  5. ..you feel sad and hopeless much of the time. “I don’t care anymore. What is wrong with me?”
  6. ..you barely have the energy to complete your daily tasks. “I don’t have the energy to do anything anymore.”
  7. ..you wake up in the middle of the night or have nightmares and stressful dreams. “I rarely sleep through the night, and don’t feel refreshed in the morning.”
  8. Emotional reactions…you cry at minor upsets; you are often irritable. “I cried when there was no milk for my coffee this morning. Then I yelled at my son.”
  9. Lack of concentration…you have trouble focusing and you find it difficult to complete complex tasks. “I used to do the daily crossword. Now I am lucky if I can solve half of it.”
  10. Health problems…you may lose or gain weight, get sick more often (colds, flu), or develop chronic health problems (backaches, high blood pressure). “Since the spring, I have had either a cold or the flu. I just can’t seem to shake them.”

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