Managing Alzheimer’s Caregiving Stress during the Holidays

Alzheimer’s caregivers face unique challenges. The stress can be especially difficult during the holidays. These tips can help.

A young woman and a senior woman cooking over a range.

Being a caregiver for a senior who has Alzheimer’s disease can be exhausting. While it is a labor of love for most, juggling the complex needs of an adult with memory loss is stressful. Add in a global health pandemic and the extra demands of the holidays, and it’s easy to understand why caregivers may dread this festive season.

The number of people taking on this challenge of caregiving continues to climb. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over 16 million people in this country are caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s. That adds up to more than 17 billion hours of unpaid care.

The Challenges Alzheimer’s Caregivers Face

Alzheimer’s caregivers often find themselves feeling tired, guilty, sad, and isolated. This is especially true during the holidays when a caregiver often misses out on gatherings because a loved one can’t be left alone.

Watching the slow decline of someone you love is difficult. In fact, it is linked to depression among caregivers. But it isn’t the only health issue they encounter. Caregivers often experience health problems of their own:

  • Headaches
  • Digestive problems
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Back problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Unintended weight gain or loss

That’s why it’s important to take steps to protect your health when you are a caregiver.

4 Alzheimer’s Caregiver Survival Tips

  1. Don’t skip the celebrations: Even if you have to do so virtually, join a few holiday celebrations. While the COVID-19 pandemic is making the seasons tougher for everyone, apps like Zoom and Skype are the next best thing to being together. Have loved ones turn on a video chat during their get together to allow you to enjoy the gathering as well.
  2. Eat a healthy diet: When time is short, it’s easy to resort to convenience foods and drive-through restaurant food at mealtime. These choices often contain high amounts of carbs, unhealthy fats, and sodium, none of which is good for you. They can also exacerbate fatigue. Meal delivery services such as Blue Apron and Hello Fresh can cut preparation and cooking time. This allows you to eat well without spending hours in the kitchen.
  3. Exercise most days: While exercise might seem like a luxury to a busy caregiver, it’s essential for maintaining mental and physical well-being. It can also help a weary caregiver beat stress, improve sleep quality, and build a stronger immune system. Exercising also helps build core strength, which can lessen the risk for a caregiving-related injury. If you can’t workout for 30 continuous minutes, break it up into 10- or 15-minute blocks of time throughout the day.
  4. Accept help: Give yourself permission to ask for and accept help. Caregivers often resist this suggestion, but it’s important to let others pitch in. Those who accept help, are better equipped mentally and physically for the role of caregiver. If you don’t have a sibling or friend who can assist, respite care at a memory care community might be a solution. Depending upon COVID-19 restrictions, a senior can be a guest of an assisted living or memory care community for a few days or weeks. This arrangement provides a family caregiver with an opportunity to rest and renew.
  5. Be realistic: Don’t set yourself up for more stress and guilt by overplanning or setting unreasonable goals for the holidays. Remember the spirit of the season and focus on spending quality time, in person or virtually, with those who mean the most.

If you have questions about Alzheimer’s disease or care options for a senior loved one, we’ll be happy to answer them. Call The Wesley Community at 1-518-587-3600 today!