When a senior loved one receives a life-altering diagnosis such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, it raises the question of, “what next?” There are a few options that can be incorporated into the care plan such as the family providing the caregiving, hiring help, or pursuing a memory care community. Many family members will take on the role as caregiver in a heartbeat, but be faced with a number of challenges.
It is equally important for every caregiver to not only put undivided focus and attention to the daily care of a loved one, but to themselves individually. The only way they can provide the best for the senior is if they provide self-love.
Monitor Your Feelings
From how we were raised, down to how our personality shapes us, we tend to either lean more optimist, or more pessimist. But in the circumstances of a loved one’s health drastically changing, it can be hard for even the most positive person to remain in good spirits.
Realistically preparing for what’s to possibly come in the advancement of memory loss is not a bad trait, but doing so in a negative way isn’t optimal. Psychology research points to optimists being less prone to depression and anxiety, even when the outcome is certainly not looking the best. One of the best ways to gauge your feelings and process the emotions that you feel as a caregiver is by journaling. Organizing your thoughts on paper will make you feel less jumbled and bottled up.
An outlet for feelings and emotions is essential for working through difficult times. It only adds up to become a bigger problem if they are not addressed first hand.
Seek help from positive-minded friends
Journaling is great if you don’t feel up to talking with someone, but you can also seek a family member or friend who will listen to your concerns. It may be hard for them to truly understand the position you are in, but simply having someone offer support or any guidance will make one feel a lot better.
Support groups for Alzheimer’s and dementia exist in-person, but also online. Online groups allow you to get in touch with like-minded people who know what it’s like to be a caregiver. Being in a virtual environment will also make it easier for those who have a harder time leaving the home. With these groups, the goal is to share advice, guidance, wisdom, and most of all – hope. You can find out how to access some of these groups here.
Shift your mindset
This may be one of the hardest steps you could take. Caregivers see memory loss conditions firsthand, and have to dedicate themselves fully to their loved one. It takes time, effort, and most important love.
That’s what a caregiver should shift their focus to. Finding joy in any moment possible. Make memories in a way that adapts to the seniors current level of memory loss. The best thing that a caregiver can do is simply find joy in the little things.
Create new memories
There are a number of fun activities that can be done with a loved one that will provoke smiles, laughter, and maybe even a family story that you haven’t heard before. Adjusting an activity that they can no longer do may be difficult, for instance an avid golfer may not be capable of stepping back on the green. Instead, you can keep them active through yoga, dancing, and other forms of physical activity.
If they used to be the world class chef in the family, give it a go at creating one of their specialties! Allow them to add ingredients, decorate the dessert, or roll dough as a way to still feel a part of the process. Put on some of their favorite classic tunes they enjoyed during their teenage years, and see how long it takes before they spark a smile.
Remember it’s okay to ask for help
We obtain inner strength by channeling hope. Resilience and grit are founded on the challenges we defeat. As caregiver, each day is another shot at providing the best care, and getting quality time with a loved one. It is common for caregivers to forget that a break is justified.
From being too busy, to simply finding guilt associated with time off. Setting time aside outside of the home or engaging in another pastime is a crucial aspect of caregiving. Getting enough sleep, balanced meals, exercise, and socialization with friends and family is important to maintaining physical and mental wellness. A caregiver that does not provide for their basic needs may then not be able to provide the best care for the senior.
There comes a point where a caregiver may experience burnout. This is normal, but should not be ignored. Caregiver burnout is the total physical and mental exhaustion that may occur from being too overwhelmed.
Asking another friend or family member to assist with caregiving, hiring help, or seeking a memory care community may be the next step. Every individual is different, so the right care plan can vary depending on the level of memory loss.
Questions surface quickly at the thought of handing over responsibility for a loved one’s well being. Trust is nurtured through expertise, but most important compassion. Family caregivers often step in because they feel they will provide the most loving care, but due to ability, they may not be able to carry out all of the care.
Additional Recommended Reading:
- The Top Must-Reads for Every Caregiver
- Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Community: Top Questions
- Successful Therapies for Alzheimer’s and Dementia
- What Is the Most Common Form of Dementia?
- When Not One, But Two of Your Loved Ones Need Assisted Living
- Is Your Loved One Ready for Memory Care