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Dementia: Support for Caregivers

Topic Overview

Taking care of a loved one who has Alzheimer's disease or another dementia can be a difficult, stressful, and tiring job. It affects the caregiver's health and ability to rest and can be a source of stress and conflict for the entire household.

The demands of caring for a person who has dementia may cut off caregivers from friends, leisure activities, and other responsibilities. For a caregiver who has health problems, the physical and emotional strain of caregiving can make those problems worse. Fatigue, depression, and sleep problems commonly develop, and caregivers often carry an added emotional burden of feeling worried, guilty, and angry about taking care of the person.

If you are a caregiver, you can benefit by learning as much as you can and taking care of yourself.

Educate yourself

  • Learn all you can about the type of dementia your loved one has and what the future may bring. Organizations such as the Alzheimer's Association and the Family Caregiver Alliance can provide educational materials as well as information on support groups and services. For contact information, see the Other Places to Get Help section of the topics Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia.
  • Find out what services your community has to offer. Many offer education, counseling, and respite services such as adult day care and home health aides.
  • Find a support group in your area. Support groups allow caregivers to share their experiences and exchange practical information on coping with the disease and caring for the person.

Care for yourself

  • Take care of your health. The demands of caregiving can be both physically and emotionally draining. Be sure to eat healthy foods and get enough rest and exercise.
  • Recognize that it is normal to feel anger, guilt, grief, frustration, and helplessness. These feelings are a sign that you need to take a break from caregiving, even if it's just for an evening to attend a support group.
  • Don't carry the entire weight of caregiving on your shoulders. Discuss caregiving responsibilities with family and interested friends.
  • Take time for yourself. Respite services provide someone to stay with the person for a short time while you get out of the house for a few hours. You also may be able to arrange a short stay in a nursing home for your loved one while you address your own medical and other needs.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter J. Whitehouse, MD - Neurology
Last Revised June 11, 2013

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