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Don't Forget to Care For Yourself When Caring For Someone With Alzheimer's

02/05/2015 12:45 EST | Updated 04/07/2015 05:59 EDT

Managing finances and appointments; dealing with a partner's personality changes; skipping sleep to keep tabs on a parent who wanders.

Those who are caring for people with Alzheimer's are responsible for many tasks, and balancing them all can lead to chronic stress.

According to a report by the Family Caregiver Alliance, over time chronic stress can cause declines in caregivers' physical and mental health. The report found that as a loved one's health declines, so too does their caregivers'.

Those caring for spouses are most likely to be affected. According to the report, only a quarter of spouses rated their health "good" or "very good."

Caregivers may fail to fill their own prescriptions or visit the doctor for their own health issues

As caregivers become more involved in maintaining the health and daily life of their loved ones, they are likely to neglect their own self-care.

Family members and spouses assisting some with Alzheimer's may fail to fill their own prescriptions or visit the doctor for their own health issues. They are also more likely to have poor eating and exercising habits because of time constraints.

Those caring for someone with Alzheimer's are at particular risk for poor health. A study published in the American Journal of Nursing found that caring for someone with dementia caused "more severe negative health effects than other types of caregiving".

Mental health effects of caregiving

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), family caregivers report higher stress, depression and emotional and cognitive problems.

Between 40 to 70 per cent of caregivers exhibit some signs of depression, and one-fourth to one-half of caregivers meet the criteria for major depression. If left untreated, depression itself can lead to physical health issues such as weight-gain, fatigue and chronic pain.

Physical effects of caregiving

Caregivers are likely to experience weakened immune system, as well as chronic pain such as backaches and headaches according to the APA report.

They also experience more serious health issues like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis at twice the rate of non-caregivers.

Even if a loved one is admitted to an assisted living facility, caregivers may continue to experience emotional stress while caring for them.

Self-care

While caring for someone with Alzheimer's or dementia can be all-consuming, caregivers should take time to pay attention to their own health.

Some may feel embarrassed or guilty asking for assistance, but caregivers should seek help from doctors, mental-health professionals, family members and respite care services in order to keep themselves healthy.

This story was originally published on Alzlive.com, a website for caregivers of people with Alzheimer's and dementia. For more tips, answer and support, visit the site here.

By Megan Jones

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