The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America recently offered tips to strengthen family relationships among those who are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
“As our ongoing need to isolate continues, it may be harder for caregivers to be able to take a break, which can create tension, anxiety, stress and resentment,” said Jennifer Reeder, director of educational and social services. “The impact of Alzheimer’s on memory also makes it harder for the person living with the disease to understand what’s happening, which adds to caregiver challenges. Taking steps to deal with all of these feelings head-on and strengthen the bonds between family members is important for everyone.”
The AFA is offering the following tips to help reduce tensions and strengthen bonds during this time.
— Know what works best. If a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease responds favorably to certain activities or approaches, be sure to maximize those, as it will help with stress levels and mood. A caregiver should also communicate what works with other family members. For example, if having someone call to check in every day is helpful in reducing stress, make sure to express that.
— Identify and understand the triggers. Knowing what actions generate stress and frustration, for the person with Alzheimer’s disease and the caregiver, is important. Recognizing those triggers early, and reacting to them quickly and constructively, reduces the likelihood of an incident. Pay attention to nonverbal cues, such as a flushed face, sweaty palms or increased heart rate, as warning signs. Caregivers should also share these negative triggers with others who a loved one interact with. Caregivers should be direct about their needs and their loved one’s. For example, say, “It really upsets me when you go days without checking in to see how things are going.”
— Keep a journal. This will enable caregivers to track their loved one’s behavior and triggers, both positive and negative ones, as well as keep tabs on their own. Journaling can be an effective therapeutic tool to release emotions, gain self-knowledge, increase ability to problem-solve and heal relationships.
— Try to maintain a daily structure. Routines can help reduce stress and anxiety. If a loved one gets up, eats or goes to sleep at certain times, adhere to that schedule as best as possible. Caregivers who normally exercise every morning before work, should continue doing so, even if they’re not leaving the house.
— Find coping mechanisms. Meditation, counting to 20 or taking a few deep breaths are all quick and easy ways to calm down and de-stress in the moment. Venting or talking things through with trusted loved ones or friends can be helpful. Also available seven days a week is AFA’s Helpline, at 866-232-8484, staffed by licensed social workers. Caregivers can also access the Helpline via online chat, now providing care more than 90 languages, at alzfdn.org; look for the light blue and white icon on the bottom right-hand corner.
— Have family care meetings. In the case of caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease, the relative who lives with or nearest to them often provides the majority of the care. This can lead to feelings of resentment. It’s important to regularly bring family members together for a care meeting to discuss the situation and divide responsibilities, which may include financial and legal duties in addition to personal care. Collaboration, compromise and structure are key to effective family care meetings. These meetings can be held over the phone, and virtually through Facetime, Skype, etc. AFA’s Helpline can also provide additional tips about how to organize one.
For more, visit alzfdn.org.