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Cheryl Mathieu, Ph.D., M.S.W.
Ask the Expert Geriatric Care Manager

February 2nd, 2008
My husband has Alzheimer's and I am overwhelmed with his care. How can I cope with this?

I’m glad you asked this question. So many people are dealing with this same situation, and some do not reach out for help. Most importantly, you must take care of yourself so you can help take care of others. It is important not to neglect your own health. You can get involved in an Alzheimer’s caregiver support group to talk to others that are going through the same thing. Call the Alzheimer’s Association for the location nearest you. They have a 24 hour helpline available for support and referral, 1-800-272-3900, or go to their website www.alz.org.

Talk to your loved ones about how you’re feeling. Find out if there is anything you are currently doing that you can get their help with. You may need to get out of the house for breaks, and a non-medical caregiver could help with this by caring for your husband while you are away. Sometimes respite care outside of the house is needed. A local assisted living that specializes in Alzheimer’s might have short respite stays available.

There may come a time when your husband’s care gets too overwhelming and support groups and caregiving assistance is not enough. This may be the time you will have to make the sometimes difficult decision to move him to a facility that specializes in Alzheimer’s care. This could be a larger assisted living or an intimate 6-bed residential care home for the elderly. You do not have to feel guilty if you need to move your husband into a different home. Guilt is optional. Know you’ve done the best you can and cared for him as long as you physically could. The symptoms of dementia can get very challenging for any caregiver. Many times the best thing for your loved one with Alzheimer’s is to have people that are trained and skilled to take care of him.

You may want to consult with a local Geriatric Care Manager to talk about your options, and to get referrals to local caregiving agencies or senior housing options. You could also contact a local senior housing referral agency. These agencies usually offer their services for free service, and they get referral fees from the facility if you move in.

Remember to congratulate yourself for all your efforts in keeping him home.

Take care of yourself,
Dr. Mathieu


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