Support Proves Vital for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

A strong support system could be the difference between a thriving caregiver and complete burnout.

Providing care for someone suffering from memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias exacts a toll on every aspect of life. Watching a loved one, parent or spouse slip away, one memory at a time, can test caregivers on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. Preparation, education and a strong support network can go a long way toward helping caregivers thrive in such a demanding life situation.

The Bay County Alzheimer’s Alliance (BCAA) has been serving caregivers and individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related illness in the Bay County area since 2005. This group is comprised of volunteers and has evolved into an indispensable resource for the community.

Along with a variety of programs, fundraising events and community-service activities, the BCAA also provides support to caregivers in the form of the Memory Café. This event is free of charge and occurs every second Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. at St. Andrews Coffee House and Bistro, a much-loved local gathering place in Panama City since 1998.

Amy Goodwin, community relations manager at Provision Living at Panama City Beach, is also a board member of the BCAA and believes that a strong, empowered support group is vital to the overall health and wellbeing of Alzheimer’s caregivers. “I work with families every day who are struggling with the effects of memory loss. They’re watching their loved one slip away, and it is a very painful emotional process,” acknowledges Goodwin. “The caregivers responsibilities are also increasing and that makes life very challenging for someone caring for an aging parent while working and raising a growing family.”

Provision Living’s memory care associates works closely with residents and families to provide individualized care and emotional support. Goodwin emphasizes that providing family members with support – both emotionally and physically — actually serves the resident, too. “Everything we do is geared toward relationship building between elders, families and team members with emphasis on each individual’s quality of life,” Goodwin says. “Caregivers who are stressed out and trying to balance their lives with being their loved one’s primary caregiver risk damaging their own physical and mental health if they don’t have a strong support system in place.”

Even the Alzheimer’s Association warns that the long-term, excessive stress related to caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can leave caregivers feeling exhausted, helpless and resentful. They offer these warning signs of burnout and advise caregivers to focus on various forms of self-care to cope with their role as a caregiver:

  • Excessive stress and tension
  • Debilitating depression
  • Persistent anxiety, anger, or guilt
  • Extreme irritability or anger with the dementia patient
  • Decreased overall life satisfaction
  • Relationship conflicts and social isolation
  • Lower immunity and greater need for healthcare services
  • Excessive use of medications, drugs, or alcohol

According to Goodwin, groups like the Memory Café serve as social resources where caregivers and those suffering from memory loss can connect, share information and serve as a source of encouragement for one another. “I find that caregivers are truly that – givers. They give everything they have, emotionally, physically and often financially, and they are often left feeling drained and defeated,” says Goodwin.

“We want to change the caregiving culture for the residents of the greater Bay County area,” Goodwin explains. “We invite caregivers and those they are caring for to join us at the Memory Café. It’s full of friendly people who are struggling with the effects of memory loss, and who realize that friendship and support is one of the best ways to cope and become empowered, even in the face of such a devastating disease.”

If you are in considering advanced planning for memory care options, or if a family member is already in need of care, Provision Living at Panama City Beach welcomes the opportunity to help your family understand your care options. Please call (850) 236-0510 for more information or to schedule a visit.

The Memory Café takes place every second Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. at St. Andrews Coffee House and Bistro, 1006 Beck Ave., Panama City Beach.

You can learn more about the Bay County Alzheimer’s Alliance by visiting http://www.baycountyalzheimersalliance.org/.

 

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