SALT LAKE CITY — Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia is a highly demanding job. Health care professionals say too many people who do it are so focused on caring for their loved one that they're not taking care of themselves.
Caring for a loved one with a disease like Alzheimer's, dementia or Parkinson's disease can be a full time job. Caregivers are frequently the child or the spouse of the patient. Paula Ledford with Burch Creek Home Care and Hospice said some people who tend their elderly loved ones don't go to their own doctor or see the dentist because they feel guilty about taking any time off from their work.
"If they take time for themselves, they feel like they're pushing [aside] the job that they've committed to. People of the older generation take their commitment to each other a lot more seriously than the younger generation does," she said.
Ledford said a lot of people don't want to leave their family members with someone else because they think they'll feel abandoned or unloved.
Tips for Caregivers
- Accept help
- Focus on what you are able to provide
- Get connected
- Join a support group
- Seek social support
- Set personal health goals
- See your doctor
"Often times, they feel that their loved one is not going to want to go somewhere else to be taken care of," she said.
But, the stress these caregivers face is only made worse when they don't properly care for themselves. That's why Ledford said it's important to tell them what can happen if they don't.
"They can actually end up with depression. They can end up with heart failure. There are a number of different things they can end up with. Their body just gets exhausted and they no longer function. They end up sick. They end up in the hospital," she said.
Ledford said there are many cases in which the caregiver dies before the person they were caring for. She pointed out there are elderly respite programs people can take advantage of.
"They can give themselves a three hour break, for free," she said. "There are places where they can get a four or five hour break, or even an all day break for free, once a week."
She said a lot of people hesitate to use them fearing their loved one may try to wander off. But, she said these centers are secure.