Wellbeing Tips for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Arkansas Psychologists Provide Tips on Improved Well-Being in Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Senior woman with son

Little Rock, Arkansas, November 25, 2015— A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can be emotionally overwhelming for the individual as well as the family.  As we recognize National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month this November, it’s important to be aware of the unique challenges Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers face.

According to 2014 ArPA President, Pat Griffen, PhD, “With the advancement of medical technology and improved medical advancements, individuals are living longer with chronic conditions. This has created increased needs for long-term caregiving, most of which are provided by family members. Traditionally, women have assumed the primary responsibility of caregiving, and still do; however, more men are assuming this role as well as younger people. According to a recent report released by AARP, 40 million are now caring for loved ones worth $470 billion annually.”

However, Dr. Griffen adds that “it is not uncommon for caregivers to suffer from caregiver stress. These symptoms include physical ailments, psychological distress, and financial strain.” Psychologically, she says “caregivers report higher levels of stress/distress, depression, anxiety, emotional problems and cognitive problems” and that many meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression.

Nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high, and more than one-third of them report symptoms of depression, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.  The demands of physical caregiving and constant supervision combined with the emotional toll of seeing a loved one so altered by dementia can be a lot to handle. However, the best thing caregivers can do for their loved ones is to stay mentally and physically strong.

Arkansas psychologists encourage caregivers to improve their well-being in a number of ways:

Actively manage stress by taking time to exercise, meditate or talk to a friend. Finding positive, healthy ways to manage stress can lower the risk for negative health consequences.

Accept the changes that the person with dementia is facing. Even if they can’t remember a name, they may still recognize and have feelings for their friends and family.

Understand that no one can do this alone. Seek support from friends, family or a support group. For many this support may be enough. But if a caregiver finds himself or herself overwhelmed, a psychologist may be able to help. Psychologists can work with the individual and family to develop strategies to improve quality of life and manage emotions related to the diagnosis.

Take time for yourself and take care of your own health. Dr. Griffen notes the importance of healthy eating, regular exercise and sleep, and following up with your own medical providers.

To learn more visit the American Psychological Association at www.apa.org/helpcenter and follow @APAHelpCenter. To find out more about Arkansas Psychological Association visit www.arpapsych.org or www.arpapsych.org and follow @ArPAPsych.

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Founded in 1949, the Arkansas Psychological Association is a statewide, non-for-profit, professional organization whose purpose is to advance psychology as a science, a profession, and a means of promoting human welfare in a challenging and changing world.

Our members represent the most well-trained, highly-credentialed, and clinically-experienced mental healthcare professionals in Arkansas. Our members are actively involved in providing psychological services in private practices, hospitals, and community mental health centers. Others teach in undergraduate and graduate academic programs, conduct cutting-edge research, serve in administrative positions for human service programs, and dedicate countless hours as committee members and chairs of various boards on the state, national, and international level.

In all these settings, ARPA and its members are committed to expanding the parameters of psychology in Arkansas and @increasing the quality of psychological services within our communities. In an effort to promote the mental and emotional well-being of individuals, families, and society at large, we strive to serve both the public and our membership through educational opportunities, workplace training, networking, and professional development.

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The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA’s membership includes more than 122,500 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.

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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Dr. Kristin Addison-Brown at 870-203-6085 or email neaneuropsych@gmail.com.