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Spousal caregivers, depression and loneliness

A study conducted by Case Western University found more than 25 percent of spouses caring for a wife or husband with dementia experience depression. Researcher Katherine Betts Adams reports, "Caregivers have a long exposure to stresses and losses from the dementia and fatigue that come from caring for their spouses, so they experience fewer positive emotions."

Caregivers also frequently experience loneliness, in part due to the reluctance many caregivers have to participate in social activities when their spouses are no longer able to socialize. Guilt can exacerbate isolation, as the caregiver becomes consumed by the responsibilities of caregiving and becomes less attentive to his or her own needs.

What can caregivers do? Former caregiver Carol O'Dell makes some excellent suggestions in her online blog, found at www.alzheimerscaregiving.com. Carol recommends caregivers sign up for an online class, in a subject of interest NOT related to caregiving, like learning a foreign language or a musical instrument. This serves two purposes: it gives the caregiver a social outlet and helps keeps the brain active and gives caregivers something to look forward to, without leaving the home. She also suggests caregivers join an online discussion forum. Both AARP and the Alzheimer's association offer forums on their Web sites. If a discussion about any topic other than caregiving is desired, O'Dell recommends Gather.com for a variety of discussion groups. Little changes in the caregiving routine can also break up the monotony.

O'Dell suggests caregivers take a different route home from the grocery store or doctor's office, rather than just going on "autopilot." Or maybe the caregiver can try a project like organizing photographs into a scrapbook, a little at a time. Little changes in the caregiving routine can make a big difference!

For more information, contact the Caregiver Resource Center.

The Senior Connection is a column provided by the Clinton County Office for the Aging. For more information about services for senior citizens, contact their office at 135 Margaret St., Suite 105, Plattsburgh or call them at 565-4620. Information is also periodically provided by the Behavioral Health Services North Caregiver Resource Center. They may be reached at 565-4543 or 565-4625.

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