Caring for a loved one with dementia? Help is available to avoid caregiver burnout

Sponsored by Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area

Dementia patients all experience physical changes to the brain, but symptoms can vary greatly from patient to patient, and it can be quite challenging to provide care for a loved one with the disease. Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area wants you to know there are resources available in our community that can help. The local nonprofit organization has compiled some tips below, and additional resources and upcoming events can be found at

Be a realistic caregiver

Be realistic about what constitutes success during the progression of the disease. Success is helping to assure that the person you are caring for is as comfortable, happy and safe as possible. Most dementia caregivers will tell you that the person they care for has good days and bad days. Be realistic about the course of the disease. Most types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, are irreversible and progressive. Dementia will tend to get worse over time and there is no known cure.

Accept support

Whether you are caregiving for someone in your family, or providing care professionally, never be afraid to ask for help. Many family caregivers find support groups helpful. They allow caregivers to vent in a group setting with people who understand what one another is going through. They also allow caregivers to hear what is working for others and learn about local resources. Similarly, professional caregivers shouldn’t be reluctant to ask a colleague for support when facing an exceptional challenge or difficult time.

Seek regular respite care

You cannot do it alone. Ask family members, friends or members of your place of worship for help so you can get a much-needed break. You can also seek help from volunteer organizations, support groups, day care programs and residential respite care facilities.

  • Schedule frequent breaks throughout the day.
  • Take time to pursue hobbies and interests.
  • Stay on top of your own health needs.
  • Seek professional help if you’re exhibiting any warning signs of caregiver burnout.

Get moving

Regular exercise not only keeps you fit, it releases endorphins that can boost your mood. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days. If it’s difficult to get away for that long at once, break the time up into 10-minute sessions sprinkled throughout the day.

Talk to someone

Talk to a friend, family member, clergy member or therapist about how you feel and what you’re going through. The person you talk to doesn’t have to be able to solve your problems, he or she just has to be a good listener. The simple act of talking face-to-face with someone who cares can be extremely cathartic.

Recognize signs of caregiver stress

Some caregivers have a difficult time accepting help, mistakenly believing they should do everything themselves. This attitude can be harmful not only to the caregiver, but also to the person who has Alzheimer’s. Caregiver stress can lead to irritability, anger, exhaustion, social withdrawal, anxiety, depression and other problems. The best way to take care of someone else is to first take care of yourself. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, who’s going to take care of your loved one?