By Shari Flight
When caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, all too often caregivers put their own physical and emotional well-being to the side as they pour every ounce of themselves into caring for their loved one, friend, or whoever they are assisting. When this happens, we begin to see a significant increase in caregiver stress and burnout.
Unfortunately, caregiver stress and burnout can lead to severe health issues, including fatigue, irritability, substance abuse—the list goes on. Often, caregivers lose sight of their own well-being, and they forget that their health is just as important as the person they are caring for. If you are not taking care of yourself, then taking care of another individual is going to be incredibly burdensome for your mind and body.
Being a memory care assisted living community, The Cordwainer is aware of the significant stress that family caregivers are under, so we are proud to provide a monthly caregiver support group. The focus of our caregiver support group is to allow the caregiver of the person living with dementia to come meet other caregivers that are going through the many difficulties of dementia, and to also share the numerous beautiful moments that happen. For many, this break can be a brief reprieve and helpful to see and hear from others in a similar situation.
Each month, we create a talking point to help guide the group and open the conversation to topics that may be hard for most to open up about. For a recent group, we asked two questions. The first question was: “Who is feeling the stress and burnout of being a caregiver?” Each person who attended the group indicated they felt both stress or burnout to some capacity. Each came to the group facing different challenges—some were the only person taking care of their loved one living with dementia; others from the “sandwich generation” caring for their loved one and young kids; and others just overwhelmed by the changes they are seeing in their loved one. Asking this question allowed them to talk amongst themselves about their individual experiences and to help one another with what they are experiencing.
The second question we asked the group was: “What do you do to tackle your caregiver stress or burnout?” It is almost always unanimous among caregivers that this question goes unanswered. It can be so hard to find time for yourself when you are taking care of a loved one. However, it is more important than you may know. From a 20-minute bath to a stroll in the neighborhood, to reading a couple of pages of your book, it’s important to find time every day and an outlet you enjoy to relieve your stress.
The Cordwainer is pleased to offer these groups each month in hopes of giving caregivers a safe space to speak from the heart, gather education and suggestions, but most importantly leave with new connections with other caregivers having similar experiences. Please get in touch at (781) 871-5550 if you have questions or would like to join our group.
Shari Flight is The Cordwainer’s Director of Community Relations. She co-facilitates The Cordwainer memory care support groups alongside The Cordwainer’s Program Director Somita Ray.