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Persevering Through Mid-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease
By Kristine Dwyer, Staff Writer

(Page 5 of 6)


During the middle stages of AD, caregivers themselves begin to show signs of exhaustion and stress and often delay medical appointments and procedures that place their state of health at risk. Numerous studies over the past decades have shown that caregiving is associated with mental anguish and poor physical health, with the impact being greater for caregivers of patients with dementia. In a study published in 1999 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, elderly spousal caregivers (aged 66-96) who experience caregiving-related stress have a 63 percent higher mortality rate than non-caregivers of the same age. That is why it is so vital to keep self-care in the forefront throughout the entire caregiving experience.

Focal Points:
It is crucial that caregivers seek out medical as well as mental health support as they try to cope with anxiety, frustration, guilt, and grief and loss while moving through this stage.

AD gradually robs a person of their cognitive and functional abilities, thus leaving the caregiver with the job of providing 24-hour care. Caring for someone with AD can take its toll and it is at this stage that depression is highly detected among caregivers due to the lack of sufficient support and the incidence of troublesome behaviors.

In one study, conducted by Dr. Mary Mittelman of the NYU School of Medicine since 1987, spousal caregivers of patients with AD were given individual and family counseling, telephone support, and encouraged to participate in a support group. The goals of the study were to reduce the negative impact of caregiving on the caregiver, encourage family support and delay or avoid premature nursing home placement. The study showed, without a doubt, that counseling and social support, along with education, helped families keep AD patients at home longer. In addition, these interventions helped increase social connectedness which reduced the impact of loneliness and social isolation, and improved the well-being of caregivers, especially in the areas of stress, depression, and toleration of difficult behaviors.  

Recent research has also shown that skill-building interventions for Alzheimer’s caregivers taught in health care settings and support groups leads to emotional and psychological improvements, including reduced caregiver burden. This is accomplished by teaching caregivers how to manage their time better, become more assertive in asking for help from others, direct their thoughts more positively and plan for the future.

5) Using Resources:
Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and caregivers do not need to try and do it all alone. Utilizing resources one at a time can help caregivers cope better and provide care longer in the home.

Focal Points:
One of the most effective ways to cope with caregiving is to communicate with and receive guidance from others such as social workers, counselors, physicians or clergy and by joining a local support group either in person or on the computer.


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