Caregiving can be one of the most rewarding professions for any person, but oftentimes, these individuals place their own personal health needs behind those of their loved ones. While it's important that caregivers spend a great deal of time fostering supportive and nurturing environments for those in their service, they must remember to monitor their own needs as well.
AARP and the United Hospital Fund recently published a report that highlighted which caregivers had the highest stress levels. Researchers found that individuals caring for loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer's disease were significantly more stressed than those providing assistance to individuals with other health conditions.
While reducing caregiver stress is essential for all those who aid loved ones, there are several tips that may be crucial for caregivers helping individuals with dementia or Alzheimer's.
1. All about the exercise
Physical activity is commonly associated with stress relief, as exercising gets the blood flowing, increases stamina and boosts one's overall mood. Whether you prefer stretching on the yoga mat or lifting weights along with an instructional video, participating in a regular physical activity is essential for caregiver health. The Alzheimer's Association explained that the best time for these caregivers to exercise may be while their loved one is napping, noting that while 30 minutes of exercise each day is ideal, just 10 minutes can make a large difference in one's attitude.
2. Stage a spa day
Taking a few hours to breathe and relax each month is crucial for caregiver health. Many of these individuals must juggle the responsibilities of full-time caregiving with those from their personal and professional lives, leading to a greater deal of stress in many aspects of their lives. For this reason, it's imperative that caregivers take leisurely breaks to reduce anxiety that may build up over time. Whether they prefer visiting a professional location or setting up their own spa at home, caregivers should be sure to set aside time to pamper themselves.
3. Search for support groups
Caregiver support groups connect professionals, peers and caregivers in one space, allowing them to swap tips, resources and stories. Joining one of these forums, whether caregivers are reaching out on an online forum or connecting to a group formed at a local retirement community, is a great way for them to learn more about the condition their loved one has, as well as best practices concerning care and management. For dementia and Alzheimer's caregivers, consider connecting to a support group through the Alzheimer's Association, which sponsors meetings across the U.S. and on the Internet.
4. Pick an activity with your loved one
As caregivers are searching for fun ways to pass the time with loved ones, they should try to pick an activity both parties can enjoy. This may include dancing to a favorite tune, watching a movie both people are interested in seeing, or playing a fun video or board game. AARP noted that positivity is key when interacting with an aging parent with dementia or Alzheimer's, so it's important to keep that in mind when spending time with loved ones.
5. Reach out to professionals
Professionals can be some of the most valuable resources for caregivers who are new to the field or need a bit of assistance when providing aid to loved ones. Those who are experiencing elevated stress levels may benefit from trusting a professional or support group that can provide guidance or offer a shoulder on which they can lean. Reaching out to a medical professional who is well versed with dementia may also be beneficial for caregivers, as the Alzheimer's Association noted that these individuals can provide valuable insight regarding steps for the future and tips for reducing stress.