Being a caregiver for individuals with dementia is hard. There is no doubting the fact that your love for your parent or spouse is unconditional but despite that you will be facing lots of moments of frustration, anxiety, loneliness and possibly resentment.
However, you need to understand that you are a human and it is okay to feel that way.
Here are 11 ideas to help you get through your day:
- Accept offers of help
You may feel that as the primary caregiver, the dementia patient is your sole responsibility. You need to understand though that you cannot do it all by yourself and it is highly encouraged to ask for and accept offers for help.
There are always a list of errands and chores on your to-do list. If someone is asking whether they can help, delineate some of the tasks, whether it is picking up a prescription, giving you time to run some errand while they stay with your loved one, or just simply mowing the lawn.
Accepting offers of help reinforces the fact that help is needed and makes others realize that they should offer you help whenever possible. If you wait till you really need the support, you may find it more difficult to ask for help than accept it when it is offered.
- Embrace therapeutic lying
Generally, people don’t like to lie and tend to avoid it even when it is necessary. But, when dealing with people with mixed dementia, honesty is not always the best policy. Dementia patients get confused easily and being honest with them can distress them and can consequently stress you out further.
You may tell your father that you are taking him out for lunch when in reality you plan to stop by the doctor’s office on the way back. It may make you feel uncomfortable to dupe your dad into going to the doctor’s but you just have to embrace therapeutic lying, for his good and for your own as well.
- Don’t try to be perfect
You cannot be a perfect caregiver; in fact, no one, no matter how dedicated or motivated by love, ever is. As your independence decreases and you experience the pain of watching your loved one degenerate, you are entitled to feel sad. Similarly, it is natural to get impatient or frustrated when the one you are caring for cannot find his way out of the bathroom.
Learning to condone the behavior of your loved one and learning to forgive oneself, is an essential part of being a caregiver.
- Manage stress through relaxation techniques
It is difficult, it is stressful, and it is demanding- caregiving for a loved one with dementia is probably one of the most challenging tasks you will undertake in your life. To combat the stress and challenges, you need to learn how to activate your body’s own natural relaxation responses.
There are various ways you can do it such as mediation, rhythmic exercise, yoga or through simply taking deep breaths. Incorporating such activities and techniques can boost your mood, energy levels, and also help reduce the stress of caregiving.
- Find a support group
There are many benefits of caring for a family member or a close friend with dementia. The bonding and satisfaction of being useful cannot be overstated. But there are many trials involved that may increase over time as the disease progresses and your love one ages.
Research shows that finding support is essentials for the health and well-being of caregivers. Support can be in the form of counseling groups, peer support groups, professional facilitators, lecture and educational support groups, among other options.
- Take supplements
Another way to manage stress levels is to take supplements of vitamin C, B complex, calcium, magnesium. After all, caring for a loved one can be overwhelming physically as well as emotionally. Chronic stress can generate changes in your immune system, cause biochemical reactions and hormonal changes. Vitamin C, B complex, calcium, magnesium help manage stress, balance the nervous system, support heart function, and manage stomach acid levels effectively.
- Treat yourself
Take some time out every day to give yourself a treat. Be it sipping on a soothing cup of herbal tea like ginger tea that reduces stress or just spending a few minutes in seclusion listening to your favorite song, arrange a small treat for yourself every day. This way, you will have something to look forward to during those dreaded frustrating moments.
When you are a caregiver, sleep often drops to the bottom of the priority list. A study by the National Alliance for Caregiving stated that 82% of family caregivers have their sleep adversely affected. Sleep is essential, not only for your own well-being and ability to cope, but also to ensure that you are able to continue to provide care without falling sick yourself.
From exercising and eating well to stress-management techniques and sleep medications, it is important that measures be taken to protect your health. If you have to be “on call” during the night, try to find respite in taking help from other family members at least a night or two every week.
Being a caregiver leaves you especially vulnerable to depression. Exercising regularly will not only keep you fit, it will also release endorphins that can boost your mood and chase your blues away. Try to squeeze in at least 30 minutes of work out 5 days a week. If you cannot manage to get away for half an hour at a time, sprinkle 10 minutes sessions throughout your day.
- Find Humor
Everyone knows that humor is an antidote to boredom, stress, illness, and sadness. When you laugh you are not disdaining or disrespecting the person you care for, but rather using humor as a mechanism to help you cope through the day. When you watch shows, try to indulge in ones that induce hearty belly laughter rather than watching heavy dramas. Your good mood can be infectious and can sooth your loved one while replenishing your inner resources.
Talking is therapeutic. Whether you talk to a therapist, a friend, a family member or to someone from the clergy, talking face-to-face with someone who cares can be extremely cathartic.
The person you are talking to does not need to have a solution to your problems, he or she just needs to listen really well. By talking you are not burdening others with your problems, you are only strengthening your bond by confiding in them.
Caregiving for a loved one with dementia is certainly no mean feat. However, by implementing even a couple of ideas mentioned above, you will find your job of caregiving a lot more doable.
ABOUT Alycia Gordan
Alycia Gordan is a freelance writer who loves to read and write articles on healthcare technology, fitness and lifestyle. She is a tech junkie and divides her time between travel and writing. You can find her on Twitter: @meetalycia