Coping with Caregiver Stress

Coping with Caregiver Stress
aking good care of an Alzheimer’s patient is often at the emotional expense of the caregiver in the form of stress and depression – a hefty price. This is a disease which erodes a caregiver like no other illness because of its duration and comprehensive mind/body attack. In fact as the Alzheimer’s patient descends into cognitive decline, the caregiver descends into stress and sadness. Of course, this compromises the caregiver’s health and outlook which in turn compromises the care of the patient. Both are drowning as the caregiver is pulled under the water during the rescue. Research shows that some caregivers contract Alzheimer’s too. This was the case for my mother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years after my father succumbed to the disease. Living with daily chronic stress compromises the immune system and unleashes an inflammatory process in the body responsible for many disease processes – including Alzheimer’s.

I have written about reframing positives into negatives for years. I do it myself and can say that after awhile it becomes a reflex action. Reframing doesn’t mean a feigned cheerfulness or phony lies created by a Pollyanna type. Rather reframing means finding the good in something bad to latch onto like a raft at sea in order to find a workable solution to return to stability. Reframing means accepting a condition, even yielding to it like in the martial arts of Aikido where a huge opponent is coming at you full force and then redirecting that opponent’s own energy to surmount it instead of meeting it head on in certain defeat.

A new study from the Netherlands on reframing supports its widespread use by dementia caregivers. In this study caregivers who received a cognitive reframing intervention had fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression and felt less stress related to their caregiving. Reframing creates a more positive relationship with the person who has dementia. “When a caregiver is able to reframe self-defeating cognitions into more constructive reasoning, it is a major change,” said the lead author Dr. Vernooij-Dassen.

To begin reframing see the big picture of Alzheimer’s:
  • Letting go of unrealistic expectations.
  • Stopping comparisons with the past – the good old days – what you once had.
  • Appreciating the moment. One moment is good and another better.
  • Being fully attentive and using the five senses.
  • Connecting emotionally with touch as opposed to speech.
  • Redirecting the anger and frustration of an Alzheimer’s patient with a positive distraction.
  • Creating chores for as long as possible for the Alzheimer’s patient – a contributing member.
  • Finding relief for the self: substitute caregivers, creative release, support, a healthy diet and exercise.

For more information on caregiving read my book, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show

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