Reducing Caregiving Stress

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Dr. Diane Bovenkamp

Dr. Diane Bovenkamp, Science Communications Specialist for the BrightFocus Foundation, talks about coping with caregiver stress.

  • Katherine Jimenez: Hi, I’m Katherine Jimenez, and I’m with Alzheimer’s Disease Research, a program of the BrightFocus Foundation, a nonprofit organization leading the fight to save sight and mind. 

    Today we are talking about Caregiver Stress, which often affects the physical and mental health of people caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Diane Bovenkamp, Science Communications Specialist, is going to help us begin coping with that stress.

    Hi Diane.

    Dr. Diane Bovenkamp: Hello Katherine, I appreciate the opportunity to continue the discussion about help for caregivers. Millions of families have taken on the responsibility of caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a truly tragic illness, as it’s degenerative and the person’s conditions continually change and worsen. There are sometimes good days but increasingly bad days. It’s so very difficult to witness your loved one declining day today, and seeing erratic behaviors that are so very different from the person you once knew.

    Katherine Jimenez: We talked in another podcast about signs of caregiver stress. Diane, will you now give us some advice on coping with that stress?

    Dr. Diane Bovenkamp: There are a number of ways to reduce caregiver stress. Today, I’ll talk about 15 of them, I think you find helpful. If you can adopt even two or three of the following suggestions, you may feel less stress and more in control of your life. However, if the stress becomes too much, please seek out professional help.

    • First, do something you enjoy every day. Have a life outside of your caregiving role.
    • Take time out…to meditate or reflect. 10-20 minutes each day. Just focus on clearing your mind and getting centered.
    • Make to‐do lists. Don’t try to keep everything in your head. Writing it down helps you control what you need to do.
    • Focus on one thing at a time. Complete it, then move on to the next. Trying to multitask doesn’t make you heroic; it just makes you less effective and more stressed.
    • Know your limitations and learn to say “no”.
    • Exercise; eat well; and Take care of your own health. A good brisk walk will help clear your head.
    • Don’t try to cope alone. Keep your friendships and family relationships strong. Let people know what help you need. Find services available through government agencies, community organizations, or your house of worship.
    • Use a computer to connect with the “outside world.” There are great resources available on the web, and you can stay in touch with people through email and social media, and Skype. Many people learn more about this disease from websites, Facebook, and Twitter. And the BrightFocus Foundation also delivers information through these mediums.
    • Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings. This can offer an emotional outlet and help you find clarity.
    • Enjoy the good moments. Like a walk in the park, playing a game, spending time with family members or pets. Embrace the pleasures that life offers.
    • Give yourself credit. Taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s is a very hard job. Acknowledge the great work you are doing, and feel a sense of satisfaction.
    • Ask yourself, “What am I learning from this?” You have no doubt already discovered new abilities through your caregiving journey. Recognize how far you have come.
    • Attend support groups. Share with and learn from other caregivers about how to cope. 
    • Use adult daycare facilities, or respite care to prevent burnout. You deserve some quality time for yourself, and your loved one may appreciate the opportunity to be in a new environment.
    • And finally, maintain your sense of humor. Look for the funny side of things, even on your worst days. Seek out humorous books or movies. Laughter truly is a great medicine.

    Katherine Jimenez: Thanks Diane, that’s very useful advice for the millions of people whose family members are living with Alzheimer’s disease.

    Dr. Diane Bovenkamp: Absolutely! With Alzheimer’s disease, it’s so very difficult to feel in control. But one thing you can control is how you look at things and how you respond to them. Practice having a positive mental attitude and you’ll help both your loved one and yourself.

    Katherine Jimenez: Thanks again, and thanks everyone for listening. Stay tuned for future podcasts on Alzheimer’s disease. For more information about Alzheimer’s disease and caregiving, and to get involved in advancing research to end this degenerative brain disease, visit, or call 1-855-345-6ADR. Again that’s 1-855-345-6237. Thanks again, everyone.

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