Healthy Aging

The Importance of Companionship for Caregivers

While rewarding in many ways, caring for a loved one with a condition like Alzheimer’s disease can require more work than a full-time job. Between taking them to different appointments, picking up medications, cooking, and cleaning, it can seem like you have no time to take care of yourself. Add the stress of seeing a loved one struggle with everyday tasks, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Learn how finding an accountability partner for yourself can improve your mental and physical well-being.

Finding a Partner

There are many places you can find a friend to help you during this time. If you regularly attend a caregiver support group, you can reach out to another member you relate to and see if they are interested in an accountability-based friendship. If you share caregiving duties with another person, they could also make a great companion. Find someone you trust and would feel comfortable spending time and sharing your emotions with.

Accountability  

A lot of caregivers tend to give the majority of their time to the care of their loved one and are too tired to take care of themselves. This can result in eating poorly, not exercising, and missing their own doctor’s appointments. To avoid this, set small goals with your partner about what you want to achieve each week (e.g., “I will find three times this week to fit 15 minutes of exercise into my schedule.”). If you and your partner are both caring for the same person, let them know when you have appointments and vice versa so you can coordinate care for your loved one at all times.

A Friendly Ear

Keeping stress bottled up inside isn’t healthy, and sometimes you just need to get it off your chest. Your partner, a fellow caregiver, is familiar with what you’re going through and is probably struggling with some of the same issues. Leena Kodali, MD, Medical Director of our MatureWell Lifestyle Center, adds, “Openly communicating about your feelings in a healthy way with your accountability partner can allow you to de-stress and get another opinion on subjects.”

Relaxation

It’s hard to relax when your to-do list seems endless, but a friend can help. Find something you both like, such as gardening, dancing, going to the movies, etc. and pencil some quality time with your friend into your calendar. By making plans with someone else, you’re more likely to follow through than if you had planned on doing something solo.

Someone to Care for You

As you and your partner get to know each other, you will notice when they might not be taking as good care of themselves as they should. If their behavior or health seems to be deteriorating over time, speak with them. Having someone to look out for you as you look out for your loved ones can be a great comfort, and it’s beneficial for your health.

Visits to primary care physicians are especially important for anyone with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, but they are also vital for maintaining the well-being of their caregivers, as well. The experienced team at CHI St. Joseph Health’s MatureWell Lifestyle Center offers a variety of services, including primary care visits for patients aged 50 years or older, and has the resources to help caregivers and their loved ones achieve better health.

 

Sources:
Family Caregiver Alliance | Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers

Alzheimer's Association | Caregiver Stress

Alzheimer's Association & AARP | Community Resource Finder

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