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World Alzheimer’s Day: Tips for caregivers to take care of their wellbeing

Observed every year on September 21, World Alzheimer’s Day is celebrated to raise awareness about the disease. First launched in 1994 by the Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), the date was chosen because it marks the birthday of Dr Alois Alzheimer, the German psychiatrist and neurologists who discovered the first published case of ‘presenile dementia’, which later became known as Alzheimer’s disease.

According to Dr Atul Prasad, Principal Director & HOD, Neurology, BLK-Max Super Speciality Hospital, Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and irreversible neurological disorder that primarily affects memory, thinking and behaviour. It is the most common cause of dementia — a term used to a describe a range of cognitive impairments severe enough to interfere with daily life.

Patients with Alzheimer’s struggle to complete their daily tasks such as grooming, dressing and eating, making the support of a caregiver crucial in managing the disease.

“Therefore, it is vital that the caregiver be gentle and respectful towards the patient. The caregiver needs to realise that the patient may need help with the most basic of tasks but can still lead a rich and rewarding life,” Prakriti Poddar, Psychologist and Global Head, Mental Health & Wellbeing, RoundGlass Living app said, adding that it is not easy to be a caregiver and the responsibility can take a heavy toll on your emotional and mental wellbeing.

Alzheimer’s caregivers often face a range of challenges and difficulties due to the progressive nature of the disease and the demands of providing care. “Some common problems faced by such caregivers include emotional and psychological stress, physical demands, lack of sleep, isolation, health issues, and grief and loss,” Dr Prasad noted.

Apart from this, the expert said that caregivers can experience financial strain as costs associated with Alzheimer’s care can be substantial, including medical expenses, home modifications and professional caregiving services.

“Many caregivers have to juggle multiple roles, such as being a parent, spouse, or employee, in addition to being a caregiver, which can lead to role strain and conflicts. They also may bear the responsibility of making important medical and end-of-life decisions on behalf of the patient, which can be emotionally overwhelming,” Dr Prasad added.

So, if you’re taking care of a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s, you need to prioritise your well-being as much. Here’s how you can keep your mind and body nourished while being a caregiver, according to Poddar:

Eat healthy: Build up your physical and emotional reserves by eating nourishing foods such as fruits and vegetables, good fats, fibre and other micro- and macro-nutrients. Additionally, stay well-hydrated throughout the day.

Join a support group: Meeting and interacting with other caregivers will allow you a safe space to share your experiences, and challenges, and find solutions. It can help you navigate feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Practise self-care: Every day, set aside some time for an activity of your choice that helps you unwind and rejuvenate. Take regular breaks, brew a cup of soothing tea for yourself, call a friend or take a power nap.

Meditate: Even 10 minutes of guided meditation can help you cope with the stress of being a caregiver. Try to maintain a daily practice to manage stress and build resilience.

Breathe: Certain breathing patterns act like a tranquiliser for the nervous system, halting the stress response in its tracks. Whenever you feel overwhelmed, use 4-7-8 breathing. Breathe in for a count of four, hold for seven, then exhale to a count of eight.

Ask for help: Don’t shy away from leaning on others when you feel tapped out. If you are experiencing signs of burnout, seek help from a mental health expert.

Embrace movement: Exercise every day, be it a walk or a short yoga session. It will benefit your physical and mental well-being.


Source: Indian Express

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