Saturday, May 13, 2017

Guest Post: Facing the Challenges of Alzheimer's Disease

Samantha Stein

Alzheimer’s disease has the power to alter the dynamics of the family. As the progressive brain
disorder targets memory, thinking and behavior, this condition can change the roles within the family quickly. Adult children become the primary caretaker of their parents and spouses shift to caregivers instead of partners. These unplanned role reversals can take a drastic toll on all involved.
As family members assume the role of caregivers, they begin to take responsibility for the financial, physical, emotional and mental well-being of their loved ones—while simultaneously trying to maintain their own. And trying to do both requires herculean strength.
Many caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s are at a higher risk of depression. Moreover, if we take a look at the cost of long-term care by state, we can easily see how their finances can also take a huge hit.
Anyone can see how overwhelming the responsibility is. As shown in 18 Enlightening Facts about Caregivers, these individuals sacrifice so much, and they should be appreciated and supported more. It can be emotionally, physically, and emotionally taxing for anyone. Add the various symptoms of Alzheimer’s into the mix, and the situation can turn disastrous.

My Mom, My Shadow
Many caregivers find it especially difficult to cope with shadowing, one of the more pronounced
symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The stories vary: caregivers share how terrifying it was to wake up in the middle of the night to find their loved one inches away from their faces, with eyes bulging as they watch their caregivers sleep. Others feel suffocated and frustrated to find their loved one following them at every turn.
Typically, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease shadow their caregivers because of anxiety and uncertainty. It is a fear-driven act, where they feel that their caregivers are the safe and known aspect of their lives. As they increasingly become disoriented, they may cling to what is only familiar and safe to them and that often means trying to stick like glue to their caregivers.

Dealing with Shadowing
The first step that caregivers need to take? Understanding and acceptance. Remember that reality is a gray area for individuals with Alzheimer’s, and it can be a terrifying situation for them. How a caregiver interprets this behavior can make a big difference. Recognize the reason behind the act, and know that it is not an action done to annoy anyone purposely.
Often, caregivers simply must take a much-needed break and collect their thoughts. Yes, the shadowing makes it challenging to do so, and can leave the caregiver feeling guilty for wanting to make an escape. Caregivers may have to ask for help from other trusted family members or friends. Additionally, they can incorporate engaging activities into the daily routine, designed to capture the attention of their loved one with Alzheimer’s.

Care for the Caregiver
Caregivers should remember to make their well-being a priority, no matter how impossible it may seem. The quality of care depends on the how healthy and happy the caregiver is, and that’s why they must take measures to secure their present and future. That could mean considering long-term care planning for themselves. After all, no one needs and deserves financial security more than these unsung heroes.

Samantha Stein is an online content manager for Association for Long Term Care Planning. Her works focus on long-term care information that covers long-term care insurance, financial planning, elder care and retirement. In line with the organization’s goal, Samantha creates content that helps raise awareness on the importance of having a comprehensive long-term care plan not just for the good of the individual but for the safety of the entire family.

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