(HuffPost Healthy Living) As shared in The Shriver Report, three out of five people who take on the enormous task of caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease are women. And, almost a third of the women who were surveyed reported that they are the primary caregivers for both their children and their elderly parents.
By becoming an Alzheimer’s caregiver, a woman must transition from the role of wife, daughter or sister to caregiver and nurturer for her loved one. Sadly, research indicates that middle-aged women who are experiencing ongoing stress have a higher risk of developing Alzhiemer’s later in life.
This Mother’s Day, take the time to reach out and do something special to acknowledge a woman whom you know is caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. Whether she is your own mother or just a friend, having support from those around her will be invaluable to her ability to manage the many stresses in her life.
Below are some ways that you can help.
Offer some respite time.
If you live nearby, one of the best gifts you can give is to offer her some time off. Take over some of her caregiving duties for an afternoon, a day or an entire weekend if you can. Even if you aren’t able to provide the care alone, you can at least be there with her to lend a hand and make caregiving easier.
You might also do some research on short-term stays in senior living communities to help her know what options are available. Taking breaks is critical for caregivers so that they can de-stress and take care of themselves for a change.
Connect her to a support group.
Connecting a caregiver to a support group or local workshop doesn’t simply mean that you inform her that the group exists. You need to take the extra steps necessary to help get her there. Give her one less thing to worry about by offering a ride to the meeting or to stay with her loved one while she attends. Support groups are invaluable, as they provide an opportunity to share advice, commiserate and learn from others who have the same concerns, stresses and challenges. These meetings provide a confidential outlet for sharing feelings and receiving comfort.
Tell her about online resources.
Message boards, blogs and chat rooms provide another medium for sharing stories, connecting with others who have similar challenges and learning from one another. She may not have the time to sit down at the computer, but you can help her by listening to her concerns and perhaps even sharing her thoughts or posting questions on her behalf.
To save her time in researching relevant message board threads, you can also identify specific issues she may be struggling with and seek out online resources that may help her. Another way for caregivers to stay informed and feel empowered is to keep abreast of the latest news and research outcomes.
You could also follow the news yourself and print out, email or share the most relevant information so that she doesn’t have to spend that extra time researching.
Honor her by posting a message about her on the Alzheimer’s Association website.
Sharing a story about just how special she is or acknowledging her with a “thank you” will lift her spirits and let her know just how much she is appreciated. Additionally, think about the other caregivers that could be inspired by reading her story and given the extra strength they need to continue their caregiving responsibilities.
Encourage her to journal.
Purchase a journal for her and encourage her to write down her thoughts and feelings about being a caregiver. Journaling is a powerful way for a person to confront their own emotions and begin to process them in a healthy fashion.
Mother’s Day provides the opportunity to show an Alzheimer’s caregiver, especially one who is also a mother, how much she is valued and appreciated. By taking the time to share these resources with her, you will help her realize she is not facing the challenge of Alzheimer’s disease alone. Your support can make a real difference in her ability to cope with stress, remain healthy and continue to provide great care for her loved one.
By Rita Altman, R.N. Senior Vice President, Memory Care & Program Services, Sunrise Senior Living
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