Coping strategies of Caregivers Stress

Alzheimer's and Related Disorders Society of India- Hyderabad Deccan organized the monthly caregivers session on February 11th, 2012, from 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM, at ARDSI Activity Centre, Asha Hospital, Road No: 86, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad. The topic of the session was "Coping strategies of Caregivers Stress" and the key speaker was Dr. K. Chandrasekhar, Vice- President, ARDSI Hyderabad Deccan and Director, Division of Neuropsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry at Asha Hospitals, Hyderabad.The session was attended by about 25 people, including caregivers, volunteers and ARDSI staff.

The session began with Ms. Safiya introducing Dr. Chandrasekhar to the audience. Dr. Chandrasekhar then spoke about the burden and emotional problems generally faced by the caregivers. He then informed the audience that disappointment and frustration have the major influence and affect on the caregivers life. The age of the caregiver is an important factor which determines the amount of stress and emotional problems faced by them. The older the caregiver is the higher is the tendency for him/her to develop depression.

Change in the caregiver's sleeping pattern is the earliest sign of depression. Routine day to day activities also become burdensome for him/her. Neglecting one's own self care needs and the tendency to postpone one's own work are some of the signs of depression in the caregiver. Apart from this, decrease of interest in the surroundings and activities,and gradual decline in social interactions are the other signs or symptoms of depression which can be observed in the caregiver.

Dr. Chandrasekhar encouraged the caregivers to share their personal problems or issues with doctor. He also advised that it is necessary for the caregiver to take atleast one 'time-out' in a week, in order to avoid having negative feelings, especially towards the patient. During this 'time-out' it is essential that the caregiver stays away from the patient, and does something of his/her own interest.

The session proceeded with Dr. Chandrasekhar explaining that prolonged grief is one of the commonly seen emotional reactions in caregivers. In such a situation or case, grief is a prolonged or a continuous phenomena caused by the loss of emotional interaction with the patient (in most of the cases the patient being the spouse).
The caregivers were then asked to share and discuss their problems or queries with Dr. Chandrasekhar. One of the caregivers asked what should be done when the patient constantly misplaces things and then has the suspicion that someone has taken his/her things. Dr. Chandrasekhar emphasized that it is necessary to train and re-train the patient to keep the objects or things in the same place. If the patient misplaces the object or thing, the caregiver should make it a point to put it back in its right place. Searching for the misplaced object along with patient reduces the level of irritability and suspicion in the patient.

He highlighted the fact that depression in the caregiver definitely has an affect on the patient, because in most of the cases the emotional sensitivity of the patient remains intact in the patient till they reach the advance stages of dementia.

Dr. Chandrasekhar stressed on the point that, in case where the patient has hallucinations, sensory stimulation (like touch) might help in calming down the patient. A sense of security and the comfort that someone is there with him/her helps the patient to relax and calm down. Hence the patient should be constantly reassured that the caregiver is there with beside him/her.

The meeting concluded with a question and answer session.