Taking Care of You, The Dementia Care GiverBeing a dementia care giver for a family member can be overwhelming. As with any chronic condition, those suffering from dementia require dedication and long-term care. Because the needs of the ill person are paramount, frustration and exhaustion can occur for the caregiver, who often must juggle family responsibilities, work obligations and the necessities of everyday life.
As anyone who has ever been in this situation can attest, something’s gotta give. The ill family member may lose critical support, the caregiver’s family may not get the attention it needs to be healthy and stable, and at the root of it all, the caregiver is forced to juggle demands on time, energy and her own mental health.
Fortunately help is available for all concerned, but stabilizing the dementia care giver is top priority.
Know that You Are Not Alone
Don’t underestimate the power of faith and strength in numbers from those who share and affirm your beliefs. Create and maintain connections with your spiritual community. Fellowship is a valuable source of strength for well-being and keeping a positive outlook on life. The support and encouragement available from spiritual companionship will quell the temptation to be isolated. Opening up to a good listener is a healthy outlet to express your concerns without interruption or judgment and can help reduce stress. And although it may seem like the last time in the world to volunteer for the community block party or yard sale, participating in a minor way fosters feelings of community and briefly refocuses your attention. It may not be a Carnival Cruise, but any break is a good break.
Smart phones, computers, and television hinder direct contact with others and encourage isolation—just what you don’t need. Though computers have their place, they can never substitute for the encouragement and strength of eye-to-eye, hand-to-hand contact. Nor can they express the affirmations you need to hear, to know you are not alone. Only face-to-face contact can effectively communicate hope and help form a plan of action for you and the family member.
Take Charge of Your Health
Taking charge of your physical health not only strengthens your body, but promotes mental and emotional well-being. The same exercise that strengthens your heart and lungs also releases endorphins, which provide the energy and focus you need as a caregiver. Strive to make daily choices that enhance your physical and emotional health.
- Sufficient rest is critical to physical health, supporting your ability to function optimally and strengthening your immune system.
- Food affects your energy and mood. Be attentive to your needs and practice good nutrition. If you feel the need for some food-medication, such as an ice cream cone or french fries, combine it with a healthy meal so you don’t crash an hour later.
- Exercise, even in small amounts is a potent release for the overwhelming stress that comes with caring for a family member with dementia. Look for opportunities to be active throughout the day, even if that just means parking further from your destination, and set aside 10-minute increments when you can take a quick walk around the block. You may not have an hour for the gym, but we can all carve out 10 minutes, hopefully at least twice a day.
- Get a dose of daily sunlight for a great mood lifter. Take your exercise outdoors or enjoy a leisurely walk. If the weather is overcast, focus instead on the sensual pleasure of different scents in nature, or variety of bird calls.
Feed Your Senses
It can be tempting to let enjoyable activities fall to the wayside when a family member is ill, but maintaining these activities is an effective tool for diminishing the assault of stress and negative emotions. Like exercise, enjoyable mental stimulation releases natural endorphins and contributes to overall good health. Engage in activities you have enjoyed in the past and seek new and meaningful activities, such as art, gardening or writing. Enjoy the smell of flowers, favorite music, or the setting sun.
Down time is a necessity that serves to refuel the energy needed as a dementia care giver. Watching a funny movie or compelling TV program, reading a book or having a good conversation are all restorative.
Finally, take time to be thankful. Make a habit of being attentive to all the beautiful blessings in your life, even the one that challenge you. Demanding as caring for someone with dementia can be, it’s also an opportunity to connect and commuicate with your loved one in a different way.
When the Going Gets Too Tough
Sometimes a dementia care giver will get to a level of stress and distraction that is unmanageable. At a certain point it may be better for all concerned to find a caring, supportive community home for your loved one. If the ill person cannot or will not take care of toiletry needs, or is unable to eat properly or disinterested in food to the point of insufficient nutrition, or does not often remember who you are or how you might be related, a professional situation will take the pressure off you and your family and allow you to restore your loving relationship with your ill loved one—unmarred by frustration, impatience and exhaustion.
We provide dementia care for seniors experiencing mild cognitive impairment and memory care issues. We understand that dementia related problems are a sensitive issue and our assisted living community is designed to make the transition as easy as possible for everyone. To learn more about our dementia care programs in Los Angeles please contact us or visit us.