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How to Avoid Burnout for Dementia Caregivers

The result of a new study evaluating the contribution that professional caregivers as well as familial caregivers make to the Alzheimer’s patient is huge. Apparently a dedicated caregiver can make all the difference by slowing down the inevitable decline of the disease. A caregiver can help a patient deal with the stressors of the disease because there is great strength in a team. Reducing stress means reducing inflammation which is implicated in the disease process. Together patient and caregiver can reduce both physical and emotional inflammation, the damaging effects of stress hormones which are corrosive to memory in the hippocampus. This is why it is important for caregivers to take care of themselves. A caregiver is like the fixed point of a compass around which the Alzheimer’s individual revolves.

Unfortunately, caregiver burnout is a reality because Alzheimer’s is (so far) not a disease which goes into remission, heals itself, or remains stable without the inevitable decline. This is why a caregiver might feel that he or she doesn’t matter; in other words the caregiver is not accomplishing much as the results are not going in the right direction.

However, I am glad to tell you that caregivers make all the difference and the study, “Caregiver–Recipient Closeness and Symptom Progression in Alzheimer’s Disease,” conducted by an objective National Institutes of Health validates the claim. I have personally observed how a calm, loving LPN in the Alzheimer’s ward at Peninsula Hospital in Queens, NY, reached out to an agitated patient who refused to take her medication. After observing the frustration of a less experienced LPN, our heroine dashed over to the patient, gave her a winning smile, patted her back lovingly and made some witty remark. She then respectfully asked the patient if she would take her blood pressure and diabetes pills because they were important for her well being. She did not talk down to the patient, but made eye contact and spoke clearly and distinctly. Without any hesitation whatsoever, the patient took her pills and our LPN gave her a hug.

If you are a caregiver reading this article, take care of yourself mind, body and spirit. You matter greatly in the total picture. I had two parents with Alzheimer’s and the professional caregivers proved to be invaluable stimulating and encouraging my parents.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation asked me to do a one hour webcast providing concrete strategies for professional caregivers, “Turn Stress into Strength.” Here is the link to listen to webcast There is no charge. I hope it helps.

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