Alzheimer’s disease is a common type of dementia. It can cause memory loss and other cognitive changes that may affect a person’s mood, behavior, and ability to complete activities. The symptoms become more severe over time.
If you’re a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, it can be challenging to manage their symptoms and meet their complex care needs.
It’s natural to feel frustrated at times, but severe frustration may negatively affect your physical and mental well-being or cause you to be aggressive toward your loved one. Taking steps to manage your frustration is important.
Read on to learn more about caregiver frustration and strategies for managing it.
If you’re coping with feelings of caregiver frustration or stress, you’re not alone.
Over time, high levels of frustration and stress may lead to caregiver burnout. This can cause feelings of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.
Potential sources of caregiver frustration include changes in your loved one’s cognitive abilities, mood, and behavior. Meeting their complex care needs may also be challenging and frustrating at times.
Cognitive, mood, and behavioral changes
Alzheimer’s disease causes cognitive changes that may be frustrating for you and your loved one. Changes in their memory may lead them to forget things or ask you the same thing multiple times.
You may worry about how these changes will affect your loved one or other members of your household. You may also find that you need to take on more responsibility for tasks that you previously counted on them to complete.
Mood and behavioral changes are also common for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Your loved one may become more irritable, aggressive, or depressed. They may act or speak in ways that are inappropriate or hurtful, which can create frustration and conflict in your relationship.
Complex care needs
As your loved one’s condition progresses, they may find it difficult to complete even routine tasks. They may need help bathing, getting dressed, and preparing and eating their meals.
It may be time-consuming, physically challenging, and emotionally demanding to meet their support needs. You might find it hard to balance their support needs with other responsibilities, including your own self-care.
The financial costs associated with Alzheimer’s disease may also be a source of frustration and stress, especially if the condition has impacted your loved one’s ability to work and contribute to your household income.
Learning to recognize the signs of caregiver frustration may help you take steps to curb it before it becomes overwhelming. This may help limit its effects on your well-being and your relationship with your loved one.
Here are some common warning signs of frustration:
- a feeling of tightness in your chest or throat
- shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- stomach pain or discomfort
- tension in your head or eyes
- tense muscles
Over time, high levels of frustration may increase your risk of mental health challenges. It may lead to more persistent changes in your mood and energy level. You may also notice changes in your sleep, eating habits, or desire to socialize or take part in activities you typically enjoy.
Let your doctor know if you develop persistent changes in your mood, energy level, or habits. These may be signs of an underlying physical or mental health challenge that requires treatment.
When you notice the warning signs of frustration, try to pause what you’re doing to calm your body and mind.
If you can safely excuse yourself from the situation, step into a quiet room to sit for a few minutes on your own or engage in a relaxing activity.
For example, you might find it helpful to:
- pray, meditate, or practice deep breathing exercises
- take a walk around the block
- take a shower or bath
- listen to music
- call a friend
It may not be possible or safe to step away from the situation that’s causing you frustration in some cases.
In those moments, try to pause, take a few deep breaths, and count slowly to 10.
This may help ease the physical effects of frustration and leave you feeling more in control of your response.
Taking a moment to consciously reframe your thoughts about negative emotions and the challenging situations that have caused them may shift how you feel.
Here are a few strategies that may help reorient your thoughts and emotions.
Acknowledge your feelings
When you feel overwhelmed, try to take a moment to identify the particular emotion that you’re feeling. For example, “This is frustration” or “This is grief.”
Acknowledging and naming your feelings may provide some relief.
Reflect on what you can control
When you’re feeling frustrated, ask yourself: Are there things about this situation that fall outside of my control? What can I control?
Trying to change something that falls outside of your control can be very stressful. Recognizing the limits of what you can change may help ease feelings of frustration and self-blame. It may also help you focus on factors that you can control, which may lead to a more productive problem-solving mindset.
There may be times when you don’t meet the expectations that you set for yourself as a caregiver, or you blame yourself for a negative experience.
In those moments, try to practice self-compassion. Remind yourself that nobody is perfect and that you’re working hard to manage a challenging situation.
Writing yourself a self-compassion letter to express an understanding of the challenges you’re facing can be helpful.
You might also find it helpful to consciously think about or write down things that you have done to make a positive difference in your loved one’s life. Focusing on your strengths can help foster positive emotions and resilience.
When you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, it may be easy to lose sight of your own self-care needs.
But practicing self-care is important for your physical and mental well-being. It may also leave you with more energy for caregiving and other activities that matter to you.
Try to practice these self-care habits:
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Get regular physical activity.
- Get 7–9 hours of sleep per night.
- Attend routine health checkups with your doctor.
- Take breaks each day to relax, spend time with friends, and participate in activities you enjoy.
If you’re finding it difficult to make time for self-care, consider whether there are any responsibilities or commitments in your life that you can step away from or delegate to someone else.
It’s also important to limit maladaptive coping habits that can increase stress in the long run.
Examples of maladaptive coping habits include:
- alcohol or drug use
- compulsive gambling
- compulsive shopping
- binge eating
These habits may provide short-term feelings of relief or euphoria but can increase your risk of physical and mental health challenges in the long run.
If you’re finding it difficult to avoid or break these habits, talk with your doctor. They may refer you to a counselor or other support resources.
Alzheimer’s caregiving is challenging, especially if you’re doing it on your own.
Reaching out for support from others may help lessen the load.
Consider asking a friend or family member to look after your loved one for a few hours while you take a break to manage other responsibilities or enjoy some time for yourself. You might also ask them to run errands for you, drop off precooked meals, or help in other ways.
You can also talk with your doctor or connect with patient and caregiver support organizations to learn about support programs and services in your area.
Some resources that may be helpful include:
- The Alzheimer’s Association’s Community Resource Finder provides Alzheimer’s care resources.
- The U.S. Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator can help you find eldercare services, such as home healthcare services or adult day programs, near you.
- A local or online support group for people managing Alzheimer’s disease, such as ALZConnected, can help you connect with others with similar experiences.
As your loved one’s condition progresses, they’ll likely reach a point where you can no longer meet their care needs at home. They may need to get long-term care from professionals at home or in a residential care facility.
Alzheimer’s caregivers face many potential challenges, which can lead to feelings of frustration and stress.
Taking steps to manage frustration and stress is important for your physical and mental well-being. It may also help you maintain a positive relationship with the person you’re caring for.
When you begin to feel frustrated, try to pause for a moment. Take a few deep breaths. If you can, step away from the situation to gather your thoughts and emotions.
Build physical and emotional resilience by practicing self-care habits. These include eating a well-balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and getting enough sleep. Taking time for a break and activities you enjoy is also important.
Reaching out for help from friends and family members, healthcare professionals, and support organizations may also help you meet your loved one’s needs as well as your own.