Caregivers – Take Care of Yourself

Caregivers – Take Care of Yourself

Posted on April 23, 2014 by ElderCare Resources Phoenix in Alzheimers Care, Blog, Caregiver Education, Dementia Care, Education, Home Care Non-Medical, Memory Loss, Respite Care

Boomers: Good nutrition impacts Alzheimer’s Disease

Las Cruces Sun-News

More than 5 million Americans today live with some form of dementia, and caring for those afflicted creates significant stress on family caregivers. Current figures place the number of family and friend caregivers at about 15.4 million (approximately 60 percent of these are women). These caregivers spend an estimated 17.5 billion hours of unpaid time at a cost of $216.4 billion annually. In addition to the time and cost impacts, caregivers suffer emotional, psychological, and social effects as a result of their caregiving responsibilities.

Studies indicate that caregivers are more prone to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders, social isolation, sleep problems and increased risk for prolonged infections and health problems. There is also data that indicate that higher levels of caregiver stress is a determining factor in nursing home admissions for dementia sufferers, and it is not uncommon for caregiver stress to contribute to familial conflicts and loss of work productivity.

For caregivers of seniors with dementia, stress levels can be further heightened by mood changes in the senior caused by the disease, which affects approximately 20 to 24 percent of seniors with dementia. Not surprisingly, the degree of stress in the caregiver is relative to the senior’s cognitive impairment and the severity of the mood changes. This stress is amplified further because caregivers often over- or underestimate the abilities of the person with dementia.

Intervention research has uncovered a number of techniques to reduce caregiver stress, including counseling, skills training, training in preventative health practices and medications for the dementia sufferer. A promising technique that benefits the dementia sufferer while decreasing the stress the caregiver experiences is the Tailored Activity Program developed by a team of researchers led by Laura Gitlin at the Thomas Jefferson University’s Center for Applied Research on Aging and Health. The research shows that engaging seniors with dementia in activities they can do successfully reduces the incidence of aggressive behaviours, and may even be more effective than medications, which can carry serious side effects. Unlike other approaches that focus on patients living in an institutional setting, however, TAP targets seniors with dementia living within the community and involves the caregiver in the activity strategies.

As part of TAP, caregivers receive training on how to implement the activities through role playing and demonstrations to the senior with dementia. They also learn stress-reduction techniques, such as deep breathing, to allow them to maintain a controlled tone with the senior with dementia. As the senior masters each activity, the caregiver introduces another to continue engagement. The caregivers are also taught how to simplify the activities in preparation for the future cognitive decline the senior with dementia will experience. Thus, the caregivers are not only given strategies relevant for the moment, but are also prepared with strategies for the future.

TAP has been shown to be effective in reducing shadowing, repetitive questioning and aggressive behavior, which have been shown to compel stressed caregivers to place seniors with dementia in nursing homes. Researchers believe this decline in negative behaviours is due to the seniors experiencing a stronger self-identity by being able to perform activities and express themselves positively. Because the activities are tailored to the seniors’ abilities, they are able to successfully engage in and complete tasks rather than suffer frustration at their inabilities. Additionally, they do not suffer from sensory overload, which often precipitates aggressive behaviors.

TAP has also been shown to provide positive effects for the caregivers. Caregivers experience the joy of seeing their loved ones’ moods and interest in life improve since the tailored activities provide pleasure rather than frustration. Caregivers are also able to better judge their loved ones’ capabilities so expectations are more realistic, which reduces the caregivers’ frustration as well as the seniors’ frustration. TAP’s targeted, structured activities are easy to implement and reduce the time required for daily care.

Many Comfort Keepers locations offer specialized dementia care and can also provide respite for caregivers. Interactive Caregiving is the unique way our caregivers deliver care to our clients. It centers on four interrelated aspects: mental engagement, physical activity, proper nutrition and safety. Caregivers can also benefit from our respite services, offering caregivers much-needed personal time to attend to other matters or simply take some time off to relax. President of Comfort Keepers in Las Cruces and El Paso, Terrie Todd, will be speaking on this topic at 11 a.m. on Aug. 24 at Golden Mesa, 151 N Roadrunner Pkwy. For information, call 575-521-4400.

Terrie Todd is the president of the Comfort Keepers franchises in El Paso and Las Cruces. For information regarding safety technology products, visit

Published: Las Cruces Sun-News