Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia brings many challenges. Research shows that 59% of dementia caregivers report high emotional stress, while 38% have high physical stress. In addition, caregiving can impact social, emotional and economic well-being. While there’s no magic formula that makes caring for a person with dementia easy, there are steps a dementia caregiver can take to avoid burnout, protect their own well-being, and provide the best possible support for their loved one.

Step #1: Be Aware of Your Mindset

Cognitive therapists recognize that the way we think about challenging situations—our mindset—can affect how well we respond to them. There are empowering mindsets, such as a growth mindset (I can improve my abilities) or an opportunity mindset (challenges offer an opportunity). There are also disheartening mindsets, like a fixed mindset (my abilities can’t improve with effort) or a victim mindset (I’m powerless).

Consciously choosing an empowering mindset, in which you view caregiving challenges as an opportunity, can help sustain your optimism and energy through the caregiving journey. Give yourself frequent pep talks and remind yourself that your responsibilities are an opportunity to:

Keep in mind, an empowering mindset doesn’t mean forced optimism—sometimes called toxic positivity—which can gloss over the challenges and painful emotions that naturally arise in your role as a dementia caregiver. Rather, with the right mindset, you’ll acknowledge the potential challenges while knowing there are ways you can prepare to meet those challenges.

Step #2: Make Necessary Preparations

In stories ranging from Greek myths to movies like “The Avengers,” great challenges require a gathering of heroes. When you’re supporting a loved one with dementia, you need to assemble your own group of heroes, the people willing to share their time and knowledge with you. This support network will serve as a resource when you need a break, when you encounter a new challenge, or when you simply need an understanding listener. To assemble your support team, seek out:

Step #3: Take Appropriate Action

With a support team and educational resources in place, you’ll be better prepared to take action in a way that truly supports your loved one’s changing needs and your own needs as a caregiver. As their memory loss and cognitive decline progress, you might take appropriate action in the way you: