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 United States who are responsible for the well-being of a friend or relative with dementia. And the role is so taxing that they have increased risk for depression, anxiety, and suicide.
Astonishingly and importantly, 40% of primary caregivers die before the person for whom they're caring.
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 the journal 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
3. Practicing mindful meditation and controlled breathing for 10 minutes daily
Participants demonstrated a 7% reduction in depression and a 9% reduction in anxiety compared with caregivers who were not in the program.