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Caregiving And Alzheimer’s Disease

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(CBS) In part two of the three-part series, “Alzheimer’s: A National Crisis,” CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton discussed some of the effects of Alzheimer’s on loved ones.

Special Section: Dr. Jennifer Ashton
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She pointed out more than 40 percent of family and other unpaid Alzheimer and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of care giving as high or very high, compared with 28 percent of caregivers of other older people. The stress is relentless.

“(Alzheimer’s patients) can require 24/7 care as it progresses. For this reason, caregivers are frequently experience high levels of stress. Too much stress can be damaging to both the caregiver and the person with Alzheimer’s.”

So how can you tell if you’re experiencing caregiver burnout?

Ashton said the symptoms can be subtle, but if you experience some of the symptoms below on a regular basis, you need to consult your doctor.

She said people should look for signs of depression, anger, sleeplessness, lack of concentration and physical health problems. These could all be signs you are way too stressed.

Ashton added caregivers need to take care of themselves.

“Making time for exercise is essential. Watch your diet and get as much rest as possible. Everyone needs time off to be with friends, go out to lunch, take in a movie. But most importantly, caregivers should not try to go it alone. Know what resources are available and reach out to them. Things like adult day care, in home assistance, and visiting nurses are a few. The Alzheimer’s Association runs support groups in many communities around the country and are a good source of comfort and reassurance.”

Ashton also shared the story of Carol and Eugene Fields.

Ashton said the couple’s most difficult struggle, as with many couples facing this disease, is losing the relationship with the most important person in your life.

The couple shared the devastating effect of the disease on their lives and how they’re coping. To see their story, click here.

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