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Caregivers are at high risk for developing depression and mental health issues

On average, the process of decline for a person with dementia can range between a couple of years to upwards of 20 years.

Caregivers are at high risk for developing depression and mental health issues, caregivers are encouraged to learn as much as possible about the illness. Gathering a team of supporters around you helps reduce the onset of caregiver stress.

Education and support are the two most important steps in coping with the illness and will have the most positive outcome for both the person you’re caring for, and you.

Dementia is an evolving neurological disease of the brain. Reading about Alzheimer’s or dementia in the paper is very different from dealing with the reality of it day after day. The changes taking place in your relative or spouse can differ and may evolve quickly, so the more you know about the illness and what comes with it, the better prepared you will be to deal with the illness as it progresses.

The emotional impact this illness has on the caregiver can be overwhelming. Having a support system to help with the care of a relative or spouse with dementia is crucial to maintaining your physical and mental wellbeing.

Coping with the changes and care of your loved one will require:

  • Organization
  • Planning
  • Strategy
  • Support - within the healthcare system and family, friends.

Effective strategies are needed in order to manage difficult behaviours such as:

The journey for the caregiver includes:

  1. Diagnosis: The first reaction to an official diagnosis of dementia is shock. The label is devastating.
  1. Education: Getting educated about the disease and finding support is the next step. The more understanding you have of the disease, and support you gather, the better the outcome will be for the caregiver and the patient.
  1. Professional Support: Find a professional to talk to. They will help you understand the process and unpredictability of this illness.

Studies show improvement in the quality of life for both patients and caregivers, and delays in requiring institutionalization when informal support (family or friends) is combined with formal supports such as day programs for the patient and respite for caregivers.

Every solution for care is dictated by individual circumstances. Factors to be considered are:

  • Personal finances
  • Patient’s history
  • Physical health restrictions
  • Age (i.e. Caregiver in their 70s caring for an aging parent)
  • Community support available
  • Severity of the behaviour(s)

There is no ‘one size fits all’ formula for managing a person with behaviours related to this illness.

Watch this compelling caregiver series: A Caregiver's experience with BPSD: Peter's Story