In-home caregivers of dementia-afflicted individuals share a particularly challenging lifestyle, often referred to as the “36-hour day.” Forgetfulness, confusion, repetition of questions & conversations, anger & anxiety related to loss of competence can exhaust those caring for loved ones with cognitive loss. Sometimes day and night are flipped and quality sleep becomes impossible. These unrelenting and often confusing demands can create stress and even cause illness in caregivers.
These are some statistics from the CAREGIVER ACTION NETWORK:
- Impact on Family Caregiver’s Health: 23% of family caregivers caring for loved ones for 5 years or more report their health is fair or poor. (1)
- 40% to 70% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression with approximately a quarter to half of these caregivers meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression. (2)
- Family caregivers experiencing extreme stress have been shown to age prematurely. This level of stress can take as much as 10 years off a family caregiver’s life. (3)
- Nearly three quarters (72%) of family caregivers report not going to the doctor as often as they should and 55% say they skip doctor appointments for themselves. 63% of caregivers report having poor eating habits than non-caregivers and 58% indicate worse exercise habits than before caregiving responsibilities. (4)
Self-care is extremely important for those in this role, and it is often the last thing in-home caregivers think about. Some basic tips:
- Have compassion for yourself! Know and appreciate how challenging this journey is!
- Nourish yourself – on every level! And begin with the foods and drinks you consume. Choose healthy plant-based foods. If you don’t eat any veggies, add a few. If you do, add a few more! They will give you extra energy and immune protection.
- Drink tea. Coffee has ridden the roller coaster of good-to-bad-to-good again, but tea has demonstrated some remarkable benefits for brain health. Black or green – both are good. And herbal is always a good choice. If you love coffee, go for it, but mix it up a bit, by choosing tea sometimes.
- Drink water! Nothing hydrates as well as water. A squeeze of lemon or lime makes it especially easy and appealing to drink. Making this a morning ritual has unique cleansing & immune support benefits.
- Sleep deep! Do everything you can to gain those restorative ZZZ’s. They are life-saving and brain-protective. (View Our Sleep Articles: 1 & 2)
- Get support! Ask for help! Can another responsible family member give you an afternoon off? Can you pay for a companion or caregiver for a few hours? Join a support group, share your story and get tips from those who share your journey.
- National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP; November 2009
- Zarit, S. (2006). Assessment of Family Caregivers: A Research Perspective
- (3)Elissa S. Epel, Dept of Psychiatry, Univ of Calif, SF, et al, From the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dec 7, 2004, Vol 101, No. 49.
- Evercare Study of Caregivers in Decline: A Close-Up Look at Health Risks of Caring for a Loved One.
National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare. 2006.
CAREGIVER ACTION NETWORK Statistics