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How Can Alzheimer's Caregivers Handle Stess? - Darby Morhardt, M.S.W. (VIDEO)

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Social Worker Darby Morhardt explains what an Alzheimer's disease caregiver can do to ease stress.

Darby Morhardt:
Well, disagreements and arguments are a part of life and a part of relationships, and when you have, when you are caring for somebody with Alzheimer’s disease, you are going to be perhaps hearing the same question repeated over and over again.

You are going to be, it’s always that the person is often going to be needing and depending on you for their daily care, their daily needs. They are going to need, over the course of the illness, more and more supervision. This can be extremely stressful on someone who is caring.

The majority of people in our country who are caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease are women. So that, and women are also juggling a lot of different things in their lives--family, work responsibilities--and that can lead to it. That can also add to the stress that they are feeling.

The stress then can lead to, as much as you understand, you need to understand that this is a disease, that the person can’t help it, that they can’t help that they are repeating themselves, they can’t or that sometimes they can get to a point where they can accuse you of doing something that you didn’t do. They can also become upset with you for absolutely no reason or what appears to be no reason at all. It’s important that as a caregiver that you recognize this is an illness. This is not the same mother that you had before talking to you; this is your mother who has a brain disease and she can’t help what’s happening to her.

So as much as you understand that, that’s the first step is to understand it, but even if as much as you do, you still need to get some kind of break from that constant caregiving, and that most people who are in this position really find it very, very helpful to get that break by seeking outside help, getting services, getting, what we call, respite care. And that can be in the form of hiring somebody to come into your home, finding a state-subsidized service to come into your home, or having that person go to an adult day center so that you can get a break. You can get a chance to calm down and to rejuvenate, re-energize.

About Darby Morhardt, M.S.W., L.C.S.W.:
Darby Morhardt is a research associate professor, the Director of Education, and a clinical research social worker at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Her research interests include early stage and Younger Onset dementia programs and services, the dynamics and functioning of caregiving families, the subjective experience of Alzheimer's disease, and primary care physician education.

Visit Darby Morhardt at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine


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