ARC Blog

Life of a Caregiver

How I Managed Anxiety While My Dad Managed Dementia

According to The Alzheimer’s Disease International, someone develops Dementia every 3 seconds. My father was one of these people and was diagnosed with Dementia in 2011. It was a year after my mother’s death. We were flipping through old albums when my father pointed to my sister, who died when she was young, and said “who’s that?” It was then I realized something was wrong.

Symptoms of this disease got worse over time, and this is when I decided to take care of him. My father’s family had a history of Dementia and eventually, he required help with daily activities such as bathing, eating, dressing and using the bathroom. Being a caregiver of someone with memory related issues or Dementia requires a lot of patience, time and money and it can be very exhausting overall. Like many others who care for patients riddled with Dementia, I went through a great deal of stress and anxiety.

Dementia causes serious alterations to personality, behavior, and memory. Caregivers often need to be attentive and alert round the clock. This combined with other challenges of taking care of patients with memory loss leads to emotional, physical and often psychological degradation.

Before we start talking about the problems I faced when taking care of my father, and how I got through them, let’s discuss why family members are interested in caring for patients themselves.

Why I Decided to Care for My Father

One of the several reasons why family or friends may be motivated to provide care to their loved one is for a sense of love, duty, and responsibility. However, other members may be caring simply because of social pressures and at times even for greed. For me, it was the love and commitment that I felt towards my dad that motivated me to help him.

Caregivers who are motivated to care because of external features such as a sense of guilt or social pressures are much more likely to resent their role and suffer distress and anguish as compared to those who do it out of love and affection. On the other hand, caregivers like myself who are invested in their role and truly care for the patient, feel less burdened and associate positive feelings with care.

Unfortunately, when caregivers themselves face anxiety issues, patients end up being neglected and proper care isn’t given. I knew I had to act when I first started to feel the caregiver symptoms set in. Though I wasn’t ready to admit there was something wrong, I knew that I had to because it was affecting my father’s health and I couldn’t live if I started ignoring his needs.  

The Symptoms I Experienced

After six months of taking care of my father’s daily activities, I started to experience symptoms of denial, anger, anxiety, depression, exhaustion, sleeplessness, irritability, and lack of concentration among other things. Here’s a test I took to find out if I was facing any issues and if I needed to manage my symptoms.  

Some of the other problems that I faced when caring for my father were:

  • Physical morbidity: Other than psychological morbidity, which includes depression and anxiety, I was also told that I may also be at risk for health problems such as lower immunity, slower healing, higher levels of blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Financial issues: Taking care of my father didn’t just take a toll on my physical and psychological health but also increased my financial liabilities. Not only did I need to manage my father’s finances but also needed to bring my own in order.
  • Social isolation: There was a time when my lack of social interaction and support was so severe that all I’d do was stay at home with my father for weeks at end. Because I didn’t trust anyone else to care for my father. I was doing all his work. As a result, I sacrificed time with friends and reduced activities I found relaxing and entertaining.

There are plenty of checklists and tests available online, so make sure you take them if you’re worried about any one of the symptoms I went through.

How I Managed My Anxiety

A paper I found very interesting which was published by Henry Brodaty highlights the effects of Dementia on caregivers and uses the Poulshock and Deimling model as well as the Pearlin and colleagues model to show the ways in which caregivers are affected. The research also explains different ways in which these problems can be eradicated and suggests that support and intervention can go a long way in improving the symptoms typically experienced by the caregivers.

After a lot of research, I found some ways to deal with my symptoms, and as a result, I started understanding my father’s needs and catered to them properly. Here’re some things I did on my journey to getting myself better and helping my dad in the process.

  • I educated myself: Dementia is a progressive disease and so it was getting tougher for me to cope and adapt with my father’s symptoms. This is when I started to read and become educated about what it really means to help someone with dementia. There’s a lot on the history of dementia All I did in the first few months was read.
  • I took care of myself: Before you do anything else, you must ensure that you care for your own needs and do something you enjoy so you don’t feel like all you’re doing is caring.
  • I was mindful about my health: One of the first things I noticed changing in myself were my eating habits and lifestyle choices. Before my father was diagnosed, I used to eat healthy, go for a run and sleep for 8 hours a day. But afterward, I just let myself go and gained 5 pounds as a result. To overcome these issues, I started eating healthy food, exercising, resting and made sure I managed my stress levels. I was also more alert about any physical symptoms such as high blood pressure, headache, blurred vision or stomach irritation.
  • I put my finances in order: Taking care of someone with Dementia can take a toll on your finances. According to stats, caregivers spend $5,500 each year for loved ones with Dementia.  As the disease progressed, it was getting more and more difficult for me to manage the medications. This is when I called my lawyer and put everything in order, so I had a backup if I needed it.
  • I took a break: There were times when I thought I’d go crazy, and this is when, for the first time, I asked another family member to care for my father. Once I had time for myself, I started to focus on my career and other things that made me happy.

If you feel that you’re facing difficulty in caring for a loved one, sign up for interventions and support groups that are in place all over the United States to provide help for caregivers.

The journey I am taking with my father every day is enlightening and terrifying all at the same time. I have had to deal with quite a few speed bumps but thankfully I caught my symptoms in time. With the right help, you too can manage your symptoms and start caring for your loved one properly.

Evie Harrison is a blogger by choice.  She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences and express herself through her blogs. Find her on Twitter:@iamevieharrison.


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