Caring for a loved one with dementia due to psychiatric conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders poses many challenges for the family as well as the caregivers. As Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive biological brain disorder, people suffering from it face immense difficulty to remember things, think clearly, communicate with others and take care of themselves.
In addition, dementia can cause mood swings, and change personality and behavior. People with dementia tend to repeat a word, statement, question, or activity repeatedly. While this type of behavior is usually harmless for the person with dementia, it can be annoying and stressful for caregivers.
Caregivers play an important role in the treatment and supervision of their loved ones suffering from dementia. During the entire process, they need to cope with many adverse characteristics of the patient with dementia, such as loneliness, behavioral issues and inability to communicate. As the above problems of the loved one negatively affects the quality of life and mental peace of caregivers, they are often termed as the “invisible patients.”
They witness a range of problems like financial hardship, social isolation, physical ill-health, etc. The physically and emotionally demanding process of taking care of people with dementia can have negative and serious outcomes predominately on their psychological and emotional health. Therefore, caregivers run the risk of experiencing anxiety, stress and depression, as well as a shortage of time for rest. They are equally susceptible like the patients to developing dysfunctional thoughts, depression and other mental health issues.
Role of cognitive behavioral therapy in addressing challenges of caregivers
In 2013, around 15.5 million family caregivers in the United States provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care for a family member or friend with dementia. This was valued at more than $220 billion. A number of evidences have highlighted the effectiveness of the cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in changing the behavior of caregivers by developing significant stress-coping strategies.
CBT, an intervention that combines behavior and cognitive therapy, trains people to develop the effective ways to tackle difficult and stressful situations. It assists in developing cognitive and behavioral skills essential for overcoming stress. While cognitive skills play a vital role in improving dysfunctional thoughts, one can escalate the feeling of pleasure during the regular activities through behavioral skills. Furthermore, CBT identifies and modifies beliefs associated with caregivers of dementia patients by developing behavioral strategies to manage their emotions.
In a recent study, researchers evaluated the changes in dementia caregivers’ depression, anxiety, and stress after the administration of CBT. Additionally, other parameters like quality of life, intervention adherence/satisfaction and therapy effectiveness were assessed using different formats, frequencies and delivery methods. It was found that group CBT provides small but significant benefits to caregivers’ depression and stress. Moreover, it can be made cost-effective by limiting therapy to group formats and eight sessions.
In another study conducted by Aimee Spector and others, scientists developed a CBT manual for anxiety in dementia and determined its viability through a randomized controlled trial. A ten-session CBT manual was developed. Participants with dementia and anxiety (including their caregivers) were randomly allocated to CBT and other standard treatment. They were observed for 15 weeks and 6 months. After 15 weeks, an adjusted difference in anxiety was observed in the participants who underwent CBT compared to others.
These studies suggest that CBT is a promising approach for those with dementia and anxiety, especially caregivers. Besides, CBT for anxiety in dementia is both feasible (in terms of recruitment, acceptability and attrition) and effective. It provides great hope as a potential treatment for people with dementia and anxiety from all angles, such as cost, timeframe and outcomes.
The road ahead
Caregivers often neglect their own mental and/or physical health to focus on those for whom they are caring. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends caregivers to take advantage of resources, such as support groups or community networks for dementia caregivers, stay active in their own lives and reach out for professional help, if needed.
If you know someone who seems to be in need for help to cope with anxiety issues, contact the Florida Helpline for Anxiety to know about the best anxiety treatment center in Florida. You can call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-920-9834 or chat online to speak to our certified experts who can guide you toward the right direction.