IN THE 2015 film “Still Alice,” Julianne Moore plays a beautiful and successful woman who’s diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The film tracks her journey with compassion and honesty, and provides a startling picture of the often-overlooked toll that dementia takes on family caregivers.
There are approximately 16 million caregivers in the U.S. responsible for the well-being of a relative/friend with dementia. The role is so taxing that they’re at an increased risk for depression, anxiety and suicide. Astonishingly, 40% of primary caregivers die before the person for whom they’re caring.
As Jamie Tyron and Dr. Marwan Sabbagh write in “Fighting for My Life: How to Thrive in the Shadow of Alzheimer’s,” “You cannot underestimate how stressful it is being a caregiver, and how it can negatively impact your own health.”
Fortunately, there are ways to ease the strain, stay alive and even thrive.
A new study published in Health Psychology shows that there are effective ways to ease caregiver burnout. Over six weeks, the researchers had people focus on positive emotions by: 1) recognizing a positive event each day; 2) keeping a gratitude journal, and 3) practicing mindful meditation and controlled breathing for 10 minutes daily. Participants had a 7% reduction in depression and a 9% reduction in anxiety compared with caregivers who were not in the program.
So if you’re a caregiver, try these techniques and check out www.sharecare.com; search for “How can I help prevent stress?” and “How can I be happy?”