Caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia is a daunting task, and one in which most caregivers get burned out and break down emotionally and/or become physically ill.
First, affirm in yourself that you are doing the best you can. And, you should try to focus on a healthy lifestyle for your own overall well-being.
The majority of caregivers forget the two “A” words while caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia: “ask” and “accept,” meaning never hesitate to ask for help when you need it and to accept the help once it is offered.
Other people want to assist you in your journey, so allow them to lend a hand. Give them specific things that will help you, such as offering to stay with your loved one while you run errands, or prepare a meal for you both, or picking up groceries for you.
In focusing on your mind, body and spirit, it is important to do things for yourself that will keep you energized and promote a more positive outlook. Make sure you get plenty of physical exercise, like walking at least 30 minutes a day, and practice a healthy lifestyle when it comes to diet and nutrition. Find a few minutes a day to nourish your inner self through meditation, prayer, reading, appreciating the arts or just being silent.
Keep an “affirmation file” for when you get the blues, and try to remove any guilt feelings you may have about the way you are caregiving. And, by all means, try to get enough rest.
Though patience is often a difficult virtue to achieve, strive to reach it each day with your loved one. The capacity to tolerate without becoming overly annoyed can make you a better caregiver. When tensions rise and you get criticized, frustrated or your feelings get hurt, take a deep breath, walk outside for fresh air, and make allowances of each other’s faults with a positive attitude and grace.
Joining a support group can assist you tremendously in being a better caregiver. Sharing your story and experiences with others can help you release some emotional burdens, and could help those around you who are struggling with the same caregiving challenges. Support services, educational opportunities and additional resources can all benefit you as you care for your loved one. Learn as much as you can about the disease process as this can aid in reducing the stress of your caregiving responsibilities.
Keep your sense of humor. You may find yourself laughing in good times and in bad but give yourself permission to do so and not feel guilty about it. Draw on your silent strength and always recognize your loved one as a vital person who can still enjoy a quality of life. Share smiles and hugs, spend time together on activities you both enjoy, listen and engage attentively. Most of all, value each other.