AlzU Blog

The Impact of Alzheimer's Caregiving on the Family

If you are an Alzheimer’s family caregiver, you probably already know that the disease has dramatically affected each member of the family,  but those with newly diagnosed loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease may need to know just how the stages of Alzheimer’s disease could potentially impact the family.

As caregivers, having an emotionally close relationship with those with AD, may put you at high risk for emotional (and physical) stress.  In fact, studies have shown that over sixty percent of

AD caregivers rate the level of stress experienced as a result of the disease as “high” or “very high.”  In addition, one third of Alzheimer’s caregivers report severe depression (particularly those providing daily care around the clock without a break).  These numbers indicate just how important it is for caregivers to learn early on how to get support for themselves-as well as other family members. 

It’s wise to consider in advance the impact that caregiving will have on you and your entire family.  If your loved one with AD is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and is fairly independent, now is the time to do the things you may always have dreamed of and may not get a chance in the near future to do-such as taking a much needed family vacation or remodeling your house.  As an adult child of a loved one with AD, it’s important to realize that the commitment you make as a caregiver will take much time away from your other family members.  This is one reason that it’s so important to start thinking about respite care (via adult day centers, in-home professionals, or assistance from other family members) to help with the daily schedule down the road, during advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease.  It’s also a good time to have a discussion with other family members to find out what each person is feeling about the upcoming changes that caregiving will bring. 

Having a family meeting to identify goals and set up routines will make things easier in the long run.  For example, ask your teenagers what they would like to do to help by assisting with responsibilities such as: shopping, cleaning or yard work.  If your spouse wants to get involved, talk about how he/she can give you a break so you can ensure time for self-care.  Implementing a weekly exercise class, or time to have lunch with a friend, or simply get some down time will be very important as a caregiver, particularly during the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease.  Defining roles early on will help lower the stress when the time comes to delegate help with Alzheimer’s caregiving responsibilities.

Keeping the lines of communication open between caregivers and immediate, as well as extended family members is vital to ensure that everyone works together for the good of the family as well as the individual with Alzheimer’s disease.  It’s not a bad idea to schedule regular family meetings to check in with others allowing for those involved to express their feelings and emotions and share in the decision making while continuously updated the plan of care.
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