Learning about the common emotional and psychological strains faced by carers is the first step towards taking care of yourself. Please refer to the next section, 10 coping strategies, for helpful advice on how to manage the pressures of caring and start enjoying life again.
You may experience denial about the disease and its seriousness, and may have difficulty accepting the profound changes that Alzheimer's disease can bring. You may also be reluctant to accept the diagnosis itself, denying that it could happen to someone that you love.
Frustration may drive you to feel anger, directed toward the person with the disease, yourself or others. You may, for example, be holding the person responsible for developing Alzheimer's disease, or resent the fact that plans for the future are now in jeopardy or impossible to fulfil.
Providing care takes both a lot of energy and time. You may find yourself so wrapped up in supporting the person with the disease that you may begin to withdraw socially from friends and relatives, and participate less and less in activities you used to enjoy.
You may feel sad or hopeless, or have a general sense that things can never get better. What's more, if you have withdrawn from family and friends and the support they can provide, your increasing isolation can make depression much more likely.
You may find yourself feeling anxious about facing another day, and the future, in general. Speaking with others who are in the same position as you, through support groups such as Dementia Care Australia
, Carers Australia
or Alzheimer's Australia
can reassure you that you are not alone – and that many people have done what you are currently doing. This type of contact as well as informing yourself and planning ahead can all help alleviate anxiety and help you to feel more in control.
Being a carer is a demanding role – both physically and mentally. What's more, if you're not taking any time for yourself, you are always "on'". That can take a huge toll on a person, so you might experience a general loss of energy required to handle daily tasks.
You may find that your body is tired, but that your mind is racing with thoughts. Or you may be mentally exhausted, but not physically so because you haven't had time to exercise and take care of your own health. As a result, you may have trouble falling asleep or getting an entire night's sleep.
You may feel emotionally fragile, overreacting to minor upsets, crying, or generally feeling irritable. That's because the demands on you are great – and can leave you feeling overwhelmed.
When you're under chronic stress, it's hard to concentrate or focus on complex tasks. What's more, when you're feeling tired, emotional, depressed or anxious, it's even harder to concentrate.
You might find you don't have time to look after your own health because your life is spent looking after the health of a person with Alzheimer's disease. You may be losing or gaining a lot of weight, getting sick frequently, or developing chronic health problems like backaches or high blood pressure.
If you're experiencing any of these problems, please don't overlook them. See your doctor as soon as possible. You can also seek advice from Dementia Care Australia, Carers Australia or Alzheimer's Australia about day-to-day coping strategies you can adopt. It is also helpful to talk to your family and friends about specific things they can do to help you in your carer role.