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.
But several years later he created a stir when he revealed 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 overlooked.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, nearly 35 million people in the United States provide unpaid assistance to an ailing or disabled family member or friend. While their role can be enormously beneficial to the patient, it can take a toll on caregivers' physical and emotional health.
In fact, 8% to 30% of caregivers die before the person they're caring for. And that number is 40% for Alzheimer's caregivers.
If you have signs of caregiver burnout – such as sleep problems, weight loss, depression, or even suicidal thoughts – you need to ease your burden. Here are some ways you can do that:
- Adopt one or more stress-management techniques such as meditation, yoga, physical exercise, seeing friends, pursuing a hobby, or getting a pet.
- Eat well. Fill your fridge with healthful meals you cook ahead of time (but no ultra-processed or sugar-added foods).
- Ask for help. Rely on friends and reputable caregiver services to give you a break every week. Resources include the Family Caregiver Alliance, 800-445-8106; Caregiver Action Network, 855-277-3640; Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, 229-928-1234; and the Well Spouse Association, 732-577-8899.