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Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022

The Impact to and Resources for Caregivers of Dementia Patients

Caregivers need support, too

Caregivers of people with dementia, often viewed as invisible second patients, face daily challenges that negatively affect their quality of life. As a society and individuals, we should commend and support caregivers for their critical role in the life of a friend or loved one. These dedicated individuals often face fatigue, burnout, depression, stress, isolation and other health implications. Remember that caregiving is not a one-size-fits-all model as their roles are diverse and complex based on the patient’s level of dependency resulting from the progression level of their dementia.

Often caregivers’ burden and stress are linked to factors such as the lack of support, diminished quality of relationships and declining health, most of which can be addressed proactively. Other contributing factors to caregivers’ stress include the progression of the disease resulting in escalating negative behavioral and psychological problems, family conflicts, lack of competency as a caregiver and role captivity (caregivers’ feelings of being trapped in their role because no one else has stepped up to assist). Studies have shown that there is a robust relationship between dementia caregiving and negative effects on psychological health. For instance, in developed countries, the rates of depression among caregivers vary between 23% and 85%, and anxiety rates are between 16% and 45%.

Did you know that caregivers of people with dementia are also at an increased risk of other health problems such as lower immunity, cardiovascular disease and chronic conditions (diabetes, ulcers, arthritis, anemia)? While the above facts related to caregivers are daunting, support is available. However, they, and those around them, must recognize the need for help and know where to access it. For example, if you find yourself as a caregiver turning to alcohol, skipping your workout, avoiding friends or not sleeping well, take action to return to a healthier lifestyle, as you cannot help others if you allow your own health to decline.

Overall, caregivers play an integral and irreplaceable role in the quality of life of people with dementia. The Bridge Alzheimer’s & Dementia Resource Center, in collaboration with the LSU Health Shreveport Center for Brain Health, stands ready to link caregivers to resources, information, emotional support, practical advice and support groups to help reduce the burden and stress of caregiving. One tool for local caregivers is support group meetings at The Bridge Alzheimer’s & Dementia Resource Center.

Why Attend a Caregiver Support Group Meeting?

Caregivers often experience isolation because they are convinced “no one else understands what I am going through.” Support groups lead to shared and common experiences demonstrating that no one needs to be on this journey alone. The Bridge offers support groups available at various times and locations around Shreveport/ Bossier to accommodate as many individuals as possible. Services include art activities, workshops, memory screenings, educational materials and counseling services. The LSU Health Shreveport Center for Brain Health also provides access to medical care and research trials. The best news is that all of these services are free of charge.

The top reasons to join a support group:

To be able to say how you feel and have others understand.

To be angry and know others will not say you should not feel like that.

To get help handling difficult behaviors. To learn that you cannot and should not be the only one responsible for caring for a loved one with the disease.

To learn where to go for help in caring for a loved one.

To realize it is possible to laugh at some of the impossible, crazy things that happen during the day with a person living with dementia.

To learn to stop trying to teach, or reason, with your loved one and instead accept that the way they see things is very real for him/ her.

To discover that it is important to have some time for yourself and not feel guilty about it. To help others, you must keep your own batteries recharged.

To become aware of how to navigate challenges and communicate better with the person living with dementia.

To discover that coping is easier with the support, caring, and understanding of others. It helps to know you are not making this dementia journey alone.

To start your journey of finding the resources you need for a patient or as a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, call the Bridge Alzheimer’s and Dementia Resource Center at (318) 656- 4800 or visit www.alzbridge.org.

Fermine Dean, Ph.D., research assistant at the Center for Brain Health, LSU Health Shreveport. Laura Gauthier, LPC, Alzheimer’s and dementia program director, The Bridge Alzheimer’s and Dementia Resource Center. Elizabeth Disbrow, Ph.D., director of the Center for Brain Health, professor of neurology, LSU Health Shreveport.


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