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The Physical and Emotional Effects of Caregiving

By Martin M Dotson

If you talk to most people who serve as a caregiver, you may hear them speak about their dedication to their loved one, their commitment to the job and -for some- their view of this role as a privilege and an honor. But, that doesn't make the caregiver role an easy one. You'll also hear those same people talk about the way it's stretching them in their jobs and with their families, and some will tell you that they don't know how long they can continue to do it.

Being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia can be especially challenging since the person may need both physical and emotional care due to effects of the disease on the brain.

Emotional Effects on Caregivers

According to the Alzheimer's Association 2014 Facts and Figures, caregivers of people with dementia are more likely to report feelings of stress and twice as likely to experience depression as non-caregivers. Caregivers also report financial stress due to the cost of caring for their loved ones and, for some, a decrease in hours at their jobs due to the need to be present with their loved one.

Physical Effects on Caregivers

Some studies note that caregiving provides a benefit of keeping caregivers more healthy due to their physical activity level. However, many studies have found negative effects from being a caregiver.

Approximately 75% of dementia caregivers express concerns about their own health, and they were more likely than other caregivers to describe their health as fair or poor.

Dementia caregivers are also more likely to have an increased risk of cardiovascular and kidney problems.

Those who are caring for a spouse with dementia have an increased risk of slower wound healing, weaker immune systems, increased amounts of stress hormones, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Strategies to Protect Caregivers' Health...

Don't Do It Alone

Being a caregiver can be isolating. You become focused on what you need to do for the next hour or the next day, and it can become all-consuming. But there is help available.

Support Groups

Consider attending a support group. You might feel that you don't have time or that this type of meeting isn't for you. While they're probably not for everyone, I've seen many who've benefited from support groups that provide a brief time to re-group, take a deep breath, listen to what's helped others in your situation and be reassured that you're not the only one facing these challenges.

Not sure where to find one? Contact the local Alzheimer's Association in your area.

Family and Community Resources

Use those around you, including friends, family members and community professionals. Sometimes, pride or insecurities prevent us from asking for help, but taking this step can allow you to do a better job as a caregiver, and can protect your own health as well.

Take Care of Yourself

You may have heard this a thousand times already, but it's true. Being proactive and vigilant about your own health is a gift to the person for whom you're caring. You are more likely to be able to care well for your loved one if you're healthy.

Know What to Expect

Use the road map. While everyone's different, many people follow a similar course of progression in dementia. Rather than continually being surprised, learn what may be around the corner so you're not caught completely unprepared.

Plan Ahead

Consider financial and legal matters that frequently arise in dementia, as well as medical decisions about treatment choices- before you are in the position of making that difficult decision. Evaluating these choices and decisions ahead of time doesn't make them easy, but it can alleviate some pressure if those situations do arise since the possibilities were well-thought out and researched ahead of time.

About the author:
Martin M Dotson works as a content writer for the essay writing service. He is keen on reading detective novels and learning foreign languages. So he encompasses a dream to go to all countries and meet new people, so as to become accustomed to other cultures.

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