Taking care of a loved one suffering from dementia is a selfless act. While many people don’t see themselves as caregivers, over 40 million Americans provide some sort of informal help. This amounts to roughly 37 billion hours of unpaid work.
Caregiving is not an easy job as you have to reduce your working hours, see the mental state of your family member deteriorate, and deal with your own stress, isolation, and ill-health. Therefore, it’s important to equip yourself with tactics, so you can forge ahead with all the help you need.
1. Learn How to Manage Stress
Caring for someone with dementia can sometimes be more stressful than someone with a physical disability. This is due to the constant forgetfulness, irrational demands, and mental load that comes with dementia.
As such, you shouldn’t wait until you’re overwhelmed to start addressing the root of the stress. Be it working too much, family disagreements, or financial issues.
Change what you can, even if it’s small, and try to accept what you can’t.
2. Join a Support Group
If you’re feeling isolated or not receiving the help you need from friends or family members, you should join a support group.
With a support group, you’ll be able to share your experiences, understand that you’re not alone, and learn more about coping skills. They can reduce your stress and anxiety, along with helping you anticipate what to expect in the future.
3. Ask for Help
You don’t need to fight this battle alone. So, it’s essential that you contact relatives, friends, or volunteer organizations to take some of the burdens from you.
If you have the money, you could hire some in-home care or maybe move to a care community. If not, getting someone to do your grocery shopping or help clean the house can do wonders for your stress levels and mental health.
4. Exercise Regularly
It’s not uncommon for people who are taking care of someone to completely forget to take care of themselves.
To avoid falling into this common pitfall, you should try to aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. You can even break it into 10-minute slots. It’ll increase your health and boost your mood.
5. Consider Respite Care
When caregivers need a break, have a health crisis, or must travel for an important event, there’s no need to worry. Respite care can give caregivers the relief they need.
In respite care, patients usually stay at assisted-living communities with amenities such as three meals a day, laundry service, and medication management.
6. Update Your Caregiving Skills
A large percentage of the caregiving population are informal caregivers. An informal caregiver is an unpaid care provided by friends or family members.
In most cases, these people haven’t received any proper training to conduct their tasks properly. As such, they are learning through trial and error.
While you may be a great carer, it’s crucial to attend workshops and courses, so you have access to the best knowledge available.
7. Learn to Say “No”
Some carers have difficulties setting clear limits. So, they might agree to tasks that are draining, such as gardening upkeep or cooking big holiday meals.
You may feel guilty by saying “no” to specific requests. However, remember that at the end of the day, you’re still in control and can decide the tasks that are right for you.
8. Watch Out for Signs of Depression
Caregiving can be a lonely and stressful undertaking, which more often than not can lead to depression. In fact, some estimates show that between 40 to 70 percent of caregivers have symptoms of depression.
Symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling frustrated, worthless, or helpless;
- Suicidal thoughts;
- Fatigue, and;
- Difficulty sleeping.
If you’re worried you may be feeling depressed, you should seek a doctor.
9. Seek Medical Help
While many caregivers are acutely aware of their patient’s illness and the medications he or she needs, they’re generally oblivious about their own medical issues.
When discussing your patient’s treatment with your physician, make sure to talk about your own problems and how to address them. You can’t care for others unless you take care of yourself.
Due to the intimate and isolating characteristics of caregiving, it may sometimes seem that you’re trapped in this job — especially if you didn’t choose to be a caregiver. You may feel that you have a duty to care for another person and may on occasion forget about living your own life.
It’s imperative to surround yourself with like-minded people, be it organizations or support groups, so you can share experiences, educate yourself about new coping strategies, and most importantly, know that you’re not alone.