* This is the first installment in a series where we will be discussing some realistic ways that Caregivers can cope with the stresses of care-giving.
When you become a caregiver – whether it be sudden or gradual – there is typically a pretty significant learning curve. All of a sudden, you may be expected to know not just about your loved one’s preferences and routines, but about insurance, long-term-care options, behaviors, physical changes, medications, hospice, legal and financial matters, etc. The list of things that you don’t know you don’t know just seems to get longer and longer. Many caregivers end up constantly in ‘survival mode’ – one step behind the next change and/or crisis. That’s normal, but there is a better way!
I know what you’re thinking! “I don’t have time to sit in a class and learn what I probably already know or learn what I may never need to know!” Or perhaps, “I don’t see how learning MORE about this terrible disease is going to help me feel LESS stressed out!” Or maybe even “I don’t want to know what comes next – it’s too hard to know.”
I hear you. Almost every single thing about this disease is hard. But I promise that the more you know, the better you can cope with the different aspects of what’s ahead. The more familiar you are the disease and what changes in mood and behavior might occur, the less you’ll be thrown if and when they do. If you have a good sense for how this disease progresses then you can potentially trust yourself a little more when it comes to decision-making, identifying red-flags and planning for the future. You can also manage your expectations for your loved one, which will alleviate some major frustration. Getting educated about Alzheimer’s Disease and how to plan for things to come may feel overwhelming at first, that’s only natural when there is so much to learn. Ultimately though, our goal is for you to feel empowered and better prepared to respond to tough situations with an arsenal of knowledge and support in hand.
So where to begin? Here are a few education resources for those who like to learn with others, individually, online or the old-fashioned-paper-way. I believe that there is something here for everyone:
- In-Person-Education Classes with the Alzheimer’s Association
The Alzheimer’s Association, GA Chapter has 7 regional offices around the state. Those offices regularly organize and provide in-person trainings for family caregivers and professionals. The best place to see what’s happening in your neck of the woods is by checking our website: alz.org/georgia . (Click here to go directly to our education calendar).
- Online Education Options
Did you know that the Alzheimer’s Association has a nationally recognized award-winning website that is chock-full of information? It’s true. Everything from symptoms and diagnosis to behaviors and common myths and a million things in between. You can even take an interactive tour of the brain! Check out Caregiver Center to get tips on how to be a healthy caregiver, how to respond to specific behaviors and take the caregiver stress test!
- Educate Yourself the Old Fashioned Way with Books!
Not interested in reading lots of information online? No worries, there are plenty of printed materials to help you get started! The Alzheimer’s Association has a recommended reading list, which can be found HERE and which is organized by topic. We have written about great book options for caregivers before; take a look back at that post HERE. Finally, the Atlanta office of the Georgia Chapter has a library of books in-house if you need us to ship you one, just give us a call!
- Call Us With Questions – 800-272-3900
This won’t be the last time you see the Helpline number posted in this series. The Alzheimer’s Association is so dedicated to you not going through this experience alone, that they have staffed the Helpline 24/7 with Master’s Level Social Workers and Counselors (called Care Consultants), who want to help you get the information, resources and support you need. Have a specific question about a loved one’s behavior? Give us a call. Not sure where to turn for a listing of financial planners or elder law attorneys? Give us a call. What’s the difference between Medicare and Medicaid again? Give us a call! We are here to help, 24/7, however we can!
Stay tuned for next week’s follow-up: Caregiver Coping Part 2: Prepare for the Worst