Support is available for caregivers dealing with Alzheimer’s and related dementia

By Carmen Costantino
September 30, 2011

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia can be challenging and, at times, overwhelming.

We remind our clients that their feelings of frustration and anger are normal and valid emotional responses to caring for their loved ones. A certain degree of irritation is normal for anyone in a caregiving role (or in any family relationship for that matter!).

However, if the pendulum swings towards the extreme end, anger, frustration or emotional overload, it can have serious consequences for you or the person you care for. Caregiver stress can have negative consequences for your physical health or may cause you to be physically or verbally aggressive towards those you are caring for.

When dealing with family caregivers, we also remind our clients the importance of distinguishing between what is and what is not within their power to change. Frustration and anger often arise from attempting to change an uncontrollable circumstance.

Caring for your loved one with dementia is synonymous with uncontrollable situations and behaviour. Normal and often simple daily activities such as getting dressed, bathing and eating can often become very frustrating, both for the caregiver and the individual with dementia.

Other behaviours common to dementia, such as wandering, repetitious movement or asking questions repeatedly, can also be frustrating for caregivers.

Changing the behaviour of a person suffering from dementia is not possible. In most cases, the behaviour is due to the disease, not just your loved one pushing your buttons.

Many caregivers often find themselves feeling isolated as the demands of the disease can make it difficult to stay in touch with friends and family.

For some caregivers, a support group can be very beneficial. Many participants use these groups to exchange information, gain support and friendship with others whose lives are affected by dementia.

Additionally, support groups provide a forum for sharing practical tips and strategies for coping with the many challenges of caregiving.

Below is a list (likely not comprehensive) of support groups for caregivers caring for aging loved ones in the Comox Valley.

The Comox Valley Senior Peer Counselling offer several dementia support groups for caregivers each month. Contact Susan Armstrong at 250-890-0099 or e-mail seniorpeercounselling@shaw.ca.

The Comox Valley Head Injury Society has recently started the Seniors Caregiving Counselling Program. Funded with the support of the United Way Central and Northern Vancouver Island, the Seniors Caregiving Counselling Program offers free clinical counselling to seniors who provide care to brain injury and stroke survivors. Phone 250-334-9225.

The Parkinson’s Society of BC has a monthly caregiver support in the Comox Valley. Call toll free 1-800-668-3330 for meeting times and places.

Support groups are not for all caregivers. Other forms of help include one-to-one support, reading books/articles or professional assistance. Below are a few starting points:

Ten real-life strategies for dementia caregiving: http://www.caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/content_node.jsp?nodeid=1134.

Glacierview Lodge has a fantastic Caregiver’s Manual developed by a team of professionals. It can be downloaded at http://www.glacierviewlodge.ca/family_caregiver_manual.php.

Comox Valley Hospice Society has a wonderful lending library for clients, families and community members. Phone 250-339-5533.

If you missed last week’s column, go to our website www.keystoneeldercare.com and click the Resources link to learn about the Alzheimer’s Society of BC and to search our articles on caregiving; some of which are related to dementia.

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Planning. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.

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“You are amazing! What I tried to do in 2 months, you did in 1 week. You’ve helped us navigate the system, made sense of Mom’s disease, and gave back her independence and control. Thank you for making such a difference in Mom’s life and giving us, her family, complete peace of mind.”

– Mike G., Nanaimo, BC

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