Are you caring for a loved one who has dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease? As important as making sure your loved one is happy and comfortable, your quality of life cannot be ignored, either.
It’s not easy to care for sick people, let alone, a loved one who’s lost his identity and memories. Your mental and emotional health will be affected, which is why it’s essential for you to practice self-care as much as you can. Below are some helpful tips you can follow.
- Understand the Symptoms
It’s one thing to read about dementia and Alzheimer’s symptoms and it’s another thing to care for a patient who has these symptoms. Before taking on the role, be mentally and emotionally prepared. Understand the symptoms and disease and what patients can go through daily. Know that each patient’s behaviour will be different. With more understanding, you can plan your approach and routine better.
- Accept the Situation
Accepting that a loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s is a tough pill to swallow. However, not accepting reality can hinder you from giving the best possible care for your loved one. This can cause you to hold back. It may also make you easily frustrated and disappointed with the situation you’re in. Dementia patients can pick up these cues from their caretakers, and it won’t be encouraging for them.
In the beautiful words of Sonia Ricotti, “Accept what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.”
- Seek Help and Support
Know that you always have the option to ask for help, whether you need another relative to help you out, a caregiver to share the shifts with you, or calling in third-party service providers to do the housework. Joining a support group is very helpful, too. Not only will you be able to talk to other caretakers who are dealing with a similar situation, but the knowledge you get reduces your fear and hopelessness.
- Have Time for Yourself
When caring for a dementia or Alzheimer’s patient, it is imperative to find time for yourself. Your physical, mental, and emotional well-being is crucial in your role. Take regular breaks from caring (a few hours every day, if possible, a day or two in the week). (1) Pursue or continue a hobby you’ve been working on. Find ways to de-stress. Exercise when you have time. Get some space and engage in activities that make you happy, too.
- Assess Your Emotions
It can be an emotional rollercoaster every day, which is why it’s vital that you also assess your emotions. Ask yourselves these questions from time to time:
- How do you feel about the situation?
- If you feel frustrated, what could be the reasons?
- Are you stressed out? What’s triggering that?
- Are you hurting? Why?
- Do you sometimes feel guilty?
These questions can help determine if you have emotions that are holding you back or weighing you down. Remember, dementia or Alzheimer’s patients may have erratic mood swings and can be difficult to work with. There are days when they can be completely unresponsive. Know that this is beyond their control and to not take it personally. Accept the situation as it is and let go of feelings of guilt because this is no one’s fault.
- Foster Your Relationships
Often, caretakers put so much time and effort into caring for their loved ones that they find it challenging to foster relationships they have with other people. Isolation can be taxing if you let it. It will make you feel lonely, alone, and disconnected. Set aside time to talk to your significant other and friends. Set up dates or quick day trips so you can unwind. Your sanity and happiness are just as important.
- Make the Most Out of the Time
During this time, you may gain a shift of perspective of what matters in life. One of which is making sure that your loved one is happy and comfortable. For caretakers who specialize in certain fields like therapy, psychology, or neurology, they may take a more technical or systemic approach.
However, at the end of the day, all you have to be is a husband, wife, son, daughter, grandchild, nephew, or niece to your loved one. Get into conversations with them. Listen to music and sing together. If you can, dance together, too. Focus on what will make your loved one and you happy. Take this opportunity to make the most of your time together. Cherish these moments, and have no regrets in the future.
As a caretaker, it is understandable to put your focus on the person you’re caring for. Nonetheless, know that you’re in this together. You play an important role in this dynamic. When you’re exhausted, moody, and uninterested, your loved one can pick up on that. Find ways to have fun and care for yourself. If you’re happy, your loved one will be, too.