Dec 26, 2013

The Role of Stress Reduction in Alzheimer's Caregiving

Was stress reduction one of the reasons why the progression of some of the aspects of Alzheimer's disease slowed in my mother.

Stress can lead to depression in Alzheimer's caregivers.
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

It is a well known scientific fact that stress impacts our health negatively.

Stress does impact the progression of Alzheimer's disease and related dementia; and, stress can also lead to depression in Alzheimer's caregivers.

The role of stress in the Alzheimer's paradigm is enormous.

All Alzheimer's caregivers should focus on the negative impacts of stress, and the resultant negative complications that can be caused by stress in Alzheimer's Care.

I remain convinced that my constant, ongoing, effort to reduce stress in the lives of both my mother and me lead to a more positive outcome in our combined Alzheimer's experience.

Did the reduction of stress explain why certain aspects of Alzheimer's disease progressed more slowly in my mother, Dotty, than might have been expected?

I read quite a bit of research on stress. I decided early on that in order to survive and live any decent quality of life together, I was going to need to figure out how to reduce stress in the relationship between my mother and me. And also, how to dramatically reduce her levels of stress, fear, and confusion.

I am remembering when I first moved to Delray Beach to take care of Dotty,

any little thing could trigger anger and angst. 

Is your experience similar to mine?

It became clear to me that Dotty's greatest fear was that she was going to be put into a "home". In fact, this was a life long fear.

Have you considered that your loved one might have fears?  Fears that carry over from their life before AD.

That they still have these fears and worried embedded in their psyche?

Something as simple as insecurity can play a major role in how a person who is deeply forgetful might act and behave.

The people that know us, and many of the long time readers on the Alzheimer's Reading Room, often remarked that Dotty seemed calmer, happier, and in some ways, more aware as her Alzheimer's progressed.

They felt that our experience was very different from what might normally be expected.

I don't want to mislead anyone. Dotty's memory continued to deteriorate. And, she did find it harder and harder to do things like buttons and put on her own cloths.

On the other hand, she was clearly happier and more secure after we stepped off the path of burden and on to the path called Joy. Most importantly, it seemed that these new found positive feelings and positive behaviors were cumulative.

She seemed to be improving in both her look, sound, and behavior over time.

So I sit here wondering. Did the build up of stress inside of Dotty explain why she was so wild and "crazy" when I first moved to Delray Beach? 

Did the reduction of stress through the stable daily program we designed, reduce her stress, and as a result, make it easier for me to care for her.

I believe it did.

Many of us believe that Alzheimer's patients feel our "vibes".

If we are angry or frustrated they can tell, but they can't say, why are your frustrated, why are you angry. Instead they become like us. They mirror out behavior.

I think most of us learn that if we "act out" much the same as we do in the "real world", our loved one living with dementia will be less cooperative and harder to deal with.

This all falls into a broad category of stress. Caregiver stress, patient stress.

So I have to ask myself,  was part of the reason why Dotty was able to read, sing, sometimes remember, and interact with others a direct reflection on the reduction of stress in her life?

Was stress reduction one of the reasons why the progression of some of the aspects of Alzheimer's disease slowed in my mother?

I believe this was one of the very most important reasons.

For an interesting discussion about Stress and Alzheimer's see --

Here is a snippet from the article:
Due to these findings, the authors conclude that stress intensifies the early pathological processes of Alzheimer’s disease and is possibly also involved in triggering them.

Reduction of stress might thus have at least a decelerating effect on the development of the disease.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized expert, writer, speaker, and influencer in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide. The ARR Knowledge Base contains more than 5,000 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original Content Alzheimer's Reading Room