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Reducing Caregiver Stress

Caring for someone affected by Alzheimer’s disease can be stressful, and learning about the disease can help you cope. An occupational therapist can help you to understand the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on a person’s day-to-day function, and will work with you to compensate for the limitations this illness imposes.

Try the following strategies from occupational therapy…

1. Minimize distractions in the environment
At mealtime reduce excess noise by turning off the radio or TV and avoiding loud conversation. Decrease confusion by eating at the same time each day, setting the table the same way, using plain dishes and minimal cutlery.

2. Provide opportunities for independence and personal control.
In dressing, lay out the clothes in the order that they will be put on. Choose clothes that are easy to put on and remove, with few buttons. This will also make toileting easier. Allow the person to do as much as he can for himself, and provide verbal cues and encouragement. For eating, adaptations such as cutlery with enlarged handles, plates with rims, and a non-slip placemat may allow a person with motor or coordination problems to remain independent.

3. Ensure consistency in routines
Keep a schedule for regular daily activities and post it on the refrigerator; maintain the same time for personal care, medication, meals, leisure, walking, and retiring. Allow plenty of time for rests and quiet periods.

4. Maintain a safe and secure environment
In the bathroom, grab-bars securely mounted in the wall studs or on the edge of the tub can provide assistance for the person getting in and out of the tub. A non-slip bathmat of a contrasting colour to the bathtub is necessary for safety and can assist with perception. To allow a person to sit to bathe, a bathbench and hand-held shower can be used. A thermostatic shower control prevents changes in temperature and the risk of scalding when water is used by others in the home. Prepare and reassure the person by providing step-by-step instruction.

Managing Stress

Occupational therapists can also assist you in dealing with stress by developing coping skills, providing support, and counselling. Some occupational therapists also offer training in stress management and relaxation techniques. They can direct you to community support groups to allow you to share your feelings and experiences with others who are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.


Another way to reduce stress is to learn as much as possible about the disease, its effects, and future care. An occupational therapist can work with you to prepare questions for your physician, and to access health care services and educational resources.

He or she can also help you develop a plan for future care of the person with Alzheimer’s disease by providing information about community alternatives and what to look for in a long-term facility.

Ten common signs of caregiver stress

If you are providing care to someone with Alzheimer’s disease it is essential that you recognize the signs of stress and take care of yourself.

  1. Denial about the disease and its effect on the person affected.
  2. Anger at the person with Alzheimer’s disease and others.
  3. Social withdrawal and lack of interest in activities once enjoyed.
  4. Anxiety about the future.
  5. Depression and hopelessness.
  6. Exhaustion and lack of energy to complete daily tasks.
  7. Sleeplessness, nightmares and stressful dreams.
  8. Emotional reactions at minor upsets; irritability.
  9. Lack of concentration and difficulty focusing.
  10. Health problems, weight gain/weight loss, backaches, headaches, or high blood pressure.


Leave the beaten track occasionally and dive into the woods. Every time you do so you will be certain to find something you have never seen before.
Alexander Graham Bell
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