When the late model and restaurateur B. Smith was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2013, her husband, Dan Gasby, was determined to take care of his wife come what may. However, several years later he created a stir when he went public with the info that he was in a romantic relationship with another woman while still Smith’s caregiver.
Regardless of your opinion about his choices, they’re a reminder that the needs of nonprofessional caregivers are often forgotten. Nearly 35 million people in the U.S. provide unpaid assistance to an ailing or disabled family member or friend, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. While their role can be enormously beneficial to the “patient,” it can take a toll on caregivers’ physical and emotional health. In fact, overall 8% to 30% of caregivers die before the person they’re caring for — and it’s 40% for Alzheimer’s caregivers.
It’s important to recognize if you have signs of caregiver burnout, such as sleep problems, weight loss, depression and even suicidal thoughts. To ease your burden:
• Adopt one or more stress management techniques, such as meditation, yoga, physical exercise, seeing friends, pursuing a hobby — even getting a pet.
• Eat well. Fill your fridge with healthful meals you cook ahead of time (no ultraprocessed and sugar-added foods).
• Ask for help. Rely on friends and reputable caregiver services to give you a break every week. Contacts: Family Caregiver Alliance, 800-445-8106; Caregiver Action Network, 855-277-3640; Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, 229-928-1234; Well Spouse Association, 732-577-8899.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.