About 15 million people in the United States care for a loved one with Alzheimer's.
Knowing what to expect and preparing for the challenges can help people with Alzheimer's live better with the disease and stay in their homes longer.
Many caregivers find their role difficult, yet rewarding. Each person's and family's situation is different, but having good information can help you be ready for the challenges each stage may bring.
Self and Family Care
Caring for someone with Alzheimer's could be the toughest job you ever have. It's important to stay physically and emotionally healthy when you are providing care. It is not selfish to worry about your own health – taking care of yourself means you will be there for the person who needs you.
- The Alzheimer's Association has a list of symptoms of stress and advice on how to stay healthy while giving care.
- The Alzheimer's Association's Caregiver Stress Check let's you assess your stress level and provides resources on how to cope.
- The Alzheimer's Association explains the risk of depression among caregivers.
- The NIH publication "So Far Away: 20 Questions and Answers for Long Distance Caregivers" explores family relationships, legal issues, housing options and advance directives among other things.
Changes in Relationships
- The Alzheimer's Association has information on changes in relationships with a loved one with Alzheimer's, family and friends.
- The Family Caregiver Alliance explores changes in intimate relationships and how to cope with these changes.
- NIH's Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center has a list of resources, including publications and links, for caregivers on intimacy and sexuality.
Grief and Loss
- The Alzheimer's Association explains how to manage feelings of grief, loss and guilt.
Talking to Family and Friends about Dementia
Many people are uncomfortable talking about Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Even doctors sometimes are reluctant to discuss this situation.
That is understandable, but not talking about the illness can make the person with Alzheimer's feel even more isolated, sad and frustrated.
Caregivers need to talk with others about what they are going through, too. Whether reaching out to friends and family or through a support group, talking about what you are facing is important for your health.
Tips on How to Communicate With Family and Friends About the Disease
- The Alzheimer's Association has advice for caregivers on how to communicate with family and friends, and how to handle family conflicts.
- The Family Caregiver Alliance has suggestions on how to deal with and prevent conflicts among siblings when making decisions on care for a parent with Alzheimer's.
Kids and Teens
Alzheimer's affects the whole family, including children and grandchildren. Information can help make it easier for your loved ones to cope.
- NIH's Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center has a list of publications and websites for children and teenagers who are dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer's.
- The Alzheimer's Association explains reactions children might have when confronted with Alzheimer's and how to help them deal with the new situation.
- The Alzheimer's Foundation of America developed resources for teenagers, including a message board and answers to frequently asked questions.
- HBO's The Alzheimer's Project developed the film "Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am?" that offers tips and perspectives for kids on how to cope with having a grandparent who has the disease.
Adapted from Alzheimers.gov, a website developed by the Department of Health and Human Services and the NIH/National Institute on Aging Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center.