Caring for someone with dementia can mean a long, emotional, and stressful journey. But you aren’t the only one experiencing it. Over 16 million people are caring for someone with dementia in the U.S alone.
Why Am I Struggling to Care for My Loved One with Dementia?
As your loved one’s functional, physical, and cognitive abilities diminish over many years, you may find that you’ve become overwhelmed and are ignoring your well-being. This can lead to you being at a higher risk of health problems for the caregiver.
Many caregivers of those suffering from dementia experience burnout, high-stress levels, or depression. And almost all, at some point, experience exhaustion, loneliness, anxiety, and sadness.
Just as each person living with dementia progresses differently, the caregiver, too, can have widely different experiences from another. The good news is that there are things you can do to make life easier for your loved one. Your role as a caregiver that much more rewarding.
Prepare for What’s to Come
The more you know about dementia and how it progresses, the more prepared you’ll be to deal with any future challenges. You will be able to foster realistic expectations and lessen your frustration. The sooner you implement your plans, the more involved your loved one can be in decisions.
One way to plan is to consult with family members and the patient’s medical team about the important decisions. These include financial and legal arrangements, as well as long-term care options that make sense for your family.
Have a Personal Support Plan in Place
There is a balancing act when it comes to caring for an adult with cognitive impairment and your current responsibilities. However, by diligently focusing on your loved one’s needs, you can find yourself putting your welfare on the back burner.
If you do not have emotional and physical support, you won’t be able to provide the best care you can. Consider trying at least one of the following to help look after yourself:
- Seek help. You can’t be expected to do everything yourself. Reach out to voluntary organizations, friends, and family members to help with the burden of caregiving.
- Utilize available resources. There are plenty of online and community resources to help you provide quality dementia care. You could start by finding a dementia association in the country you’re in. Such organizations offer training, advice, help, and practical support for caregivers. They can also refer you to support groups.
- Plan for your care. It’s all too easy to forget about the activities and hobbies you love when your whole world becomes centered around caregiving. However, you’re risking your health by doing so. Make sure you allow yourself some time to maintain friendships, social, and professional networks. Actively engage in the hobbies you enjoy as well.
- Learn or upgrade your caregiving skills. There’s no manual handed to you when you accept the role of caregiver. However, there are workshops, books, and online training resources available that can help you.
Coping with Changes
Among the significant issues of caring for your loved one is dealing with personality changes and concerning behaviors. These behaviors include hallucinations, wandering, aggressiveness, and sleeping or eating difficulties that can be hard to watch and make your life as a caregiver even more challenging.
These issues can be exacerbated or triggered by your loved one’s inability to cope with stress, their environment, or their failed attempts to communicate the way they’d like to. By making some necessary changes, you can improve the well-being of your loved one and ease stress, along with your own experience as a caregiver.
Make Time to Reflect and Accept
Another big challenge that comes with caring for a loved one is to come to terms with what’s happening. You will need to modify your expectations concerning what your loved one can do whenever the disease progresses. By accepting reality each time the condition takes on a new turn, you will be in a better position to handle the emotional stress that comes with it and feel more satisfied in your role of caregiver.