Merck Manual

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Caring for Caregivers

Caring for Caregivers

Caring for people with dementia is stressful and demanding, and caregivers may become depressed and exhausted, often neglecting their own mental and physical health.

The following measures can help caregivers:

  • Learning about how to effectively meet the needs of people with dementia and what to expect from them: For example, caregivers need to know that scolding about making mistakes or not remembering may only make behaviors worse. Such knowledge helps prevent unnecessary distress. Caregivers can also learn how to respond to disruptive behavior and thus calm the person more quickly and sometimes prevent disruptive behavior.

    Information about what to do on a daily basis may be obtained from nurses, social workers, and organizations, as well as from published and online materials.

  • Seeking help when it is needed: Relief from the burdens of around-the-clock care of a person with dementia is often available, depending on the specific behavior and capabilities of the person and on family and community resources. Social agencies, including the social service department of the local community hospital, can help locate appropriate sources of help.

    Options include day-care programs, visits by home nurses, part-time or full-time housekeeping assistance, and live-in assistance. Transportation and meal services may be available. Full-time care can be very expensive, but many insurance plans cover some of the cost.

    Caregivers may benefit from counseling and support groups.

  • Caring for self: Caregivers need to remember to take care of themselves. For example, engaging in physical activity can improve mood as well as health. Friends, hobbies, and activities should not be abandoned.