Watching a loved one’s cognitive capabilities deteriorate is a heart-wrenchingly painful process, rife with stress. My grandma has dementia, so I know that firsthand. You do what you can to help them, but when it comes down to it, there’s little you can do. You are forced to watch as they slowly slip away from you. And if you double as their caregiver, you may find yourself even more stressed due to the daily challenges the disorder poses.
But science has found that this process is more than just stressful for caregivers; it’s also deadly. Studies from John Hopkins University, Duke University, and Utah State University have found that caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s are six times more likely to develop the neurodegenerative disorder themselves. This may be the case for several reasons:
- Social isolation
- Poor diet and lack of exercise (due to a lack of time or energy)
These things can lead to clinical depression, brain inflammation, and general poor health — factors that raise your risk of developing dementia.
So this just proves it: caregivers need to care for themselves, too.
If you are a caregiver, a big part of this involves getting help. You don’t have to — and shouldn’t have to — face the challenges of Alzheimer’s care alone. There are a wealth of resources to help you, like adult daycare centers and home care services. If you can’t or prefer not to turn to these services, ask family and friends for help. You can also join a support group for caregivers, where you can learn how to better help your loved one, as well as gain emotional support.
If the thought of asking for outside help makes you feel guilty, remember that your own physical, mental, and social health is critical — not just for yourself, but for your loved one, too; by meeting your own needs, you’re better able to meet theirs.
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