If you’re caring for someone with dementia, know that you’re not alone. Millions of Americans are currently responsible for supporting a family member or other loved one with the disease. Assisting someone through this life chapter can be heartbreaking, demanding, and exhausting. These overwhelming feelings are difficult to navigate, especially without the proper guidance.
Finding the balance between caring for yourself and others is also incredibly challenging. Fortunately, you don’t have to make the caregiving journey by yourself. Here are some practical tips and essential resources for families and caregivers of individuals with dementia.
1. Ask for Help
The demands of caring for a person with dementia are significant, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about needing help. Assistance might mean asking another family member or friend to check in on your loved one. If your caregiver demands are too much to handle some days, consider delegating your other responsibilities. That might mean getting groceries delivered, asking your partner to run errands, or assigning extra chores to your kids. Help could also include seeking emotional support through therapy and those closest to you.
In some cases, a person with dementia will require 24/7 care and need to move into a residential facility. Your responsibilities will shift to visiting your loved one and ensuring they are well cared for. If you encounter issues with the care your family member is receiving, seek guidance from a nursing home abuse lawyer. Attorneys can also assist you with other legal matters, like finalizing a will or establishing a power of attorney. Remember that asking for help shows strength and how much you care for your loved one.
2. Stick to a Routine
A solid routine is foundational for you and the individual dealing with dementia. Try to schedule meals at the same time each day, along with activities like bathing, dressing, and sleeping. Sticking to a schedule cuts down on time spent planning and allows for more of what is important. Daily habits can also reduce behaviors like restlessness, agitation, and aggression. This regularity likewise allows you to manage your time better and handle your other responsibilities.
In addition to a solid routine, those with dementia benefit from participating in enjoyable activities that match what they can do. Gardening, exercising, and crafting are all great options that can be done with proper supervision and assistance if needed. Taking daily walks together is beneficial for both you and your loved one. As time passes, people with dementia need help with more everyday tasks and activities, so adjust your routine when necessary.
3. Seek Out Support Opportunities
The best type of support usually comes from those who truly understand what you’re going through. The Alzheimer’s Association provides information on local support groups and other resources to help you manage your caretaking responsibilities. The organization offers groups led by peers and professionals for those diagnosed with dementia and their caregivers. Some areas even offer specialized groups for adult caregivers, children, and those at various stages of dementia.
You can turn to online groups if you don’t live in a place with many local support organizations. Virtual meetings are often more convenient if you find it difficult to attend an in-person gathering. The Alzheimer’s Association’s website also offers a 24/7 helpline that you can call for assistance. The line is staffed 365 days a year to offer resources for caregivers, families, and individuals with dementia.
4. Take Care of Yourself, Too
Spending so much of your energy caring for another can deplete you, so finding moments for self-care is crucial. Look for opportunities in smaller moments if you struggle to find larger time blocks, which is often true for caregivers. For example, take a walk around your neighborhood for some quick exercise or call a friend for a moment of connection. Be aware of emotions that arise when you take on too much. Feelings of anger and resentment are good indicators you need to take a step back when possible.
Rest is crucial to taking care of yourself and recovering from the demands of caregiving. When you can, take the time to allow yourself to simply be, with no expectations or guilt. Set aside your growing to-do list and all of life’s demands, even if just for an hour. Most importantly, try not to feel guilty for having a moment to yourself. You will be of better use to yourself and others when you take time to recuperate.
Making It Through the Journey Together
Caregiving is one of the most challenging jobs in the world, especially when supporting a loved one with dementia. You’re dealing with the heartbreak of watching someone you care for lose their abilities, which can feel hopeless and isolating. But while you can’t take the disease away, you and the members of your support system can discover the best ways to provide care.
You can also find ways to nurture yourself and discover moments of connection with those who understand your journey. In the moments you feel alone, remember that millions of people understand your struggles. With the right resources in place, you will be able to care for yourself and your loved one with grace and compassion.