Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Today is the last day of World Alzheimer's Month, and tomorrow (1 Oct 2015) is UN's 25th International Day of Older Persons. What better way to spend the day than at Hospital Kuala Lumpur's celebration of Older Persons.

The main lobby was packed with senior citizens checking out the poster exhibition and queuing up for the various free health tests. But it was the forum that drew my interest, in particular, Dr Rizah Mazzuin's presentation on 'Caregiver Stress'. Dr Rizah is a geriatrician with Hospital KL.

Any primary caregiver looking after an elderly person with Alzheimer's can tell you about the STRESS plus FRUSTRATION you will face. You have to look after a person who is often uncooperative, unresponsive and unpredictable. That's the nature of Alzheimer's - a disease which eats away at one's ability to remember, communicate and function normally.

Most caregivers are reluctant to seek help from others as they consider it their filial duty to care for their elderly parents, and they should accept it without complaint. However, caregivers who are overly stressed will do more harm than good not only to the care receiver, but also to themselves. They become impatient, irritable or worse, abusive to the person they are supposed to care for. Their health suffers, and they may end up with serious mental problems like depression.

If you are the sole caregiver of someone with Alzheimer's, do seek help from your siblings, neighbours or part-time nurses. Get them to take over for a few hours a week so that you can have a break to rest, relax and revitalize. (Read how my siblings helped out when I became primary caregiver for my mom after her hip surgery.  To complicate the caregiving, she was also diagnosed with Alzheimer's. (

In June 2011, my daughters gave me an all-expense paid week-long vacation in Phuket. They called it my 'caregiver break' as they felt I needed to get away and re-energize. More at

Learn to delegate. Also learn to accept that others who help you may not do things exactly the same way as you do. In other words, don't micro-manage. People are more willing to help you if you are reasonable in your expectations.

Take care of your health. Exercise daily, follow a balanced diet, and get suffcient quality sleep. Meditation also helps to calm you as looking after an AD patient can be most frustrating, even exasperating.

Join a support group like ADFM NATIONAL ALZHEIMER'S CAREGIVERS SUPPORT NETWORK MALAYSIA. Nothing helps to relieve stress more than sharing your concerns with others who are on the same caregiving journey as you. There is comfort in knowing that you are not alone.


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