Caring for a loved one with dementia is full of challenges and it is easy to feel unprepared or overwhelmed at times during your caring journey. It’s important to remember, no matter how isolated you may feel, you are not alone and there are always people available who can help you care for your loved one.
Mobility. Does your loved one with dementia struggle with getting around? Maybe it’s physical or maybe there is a fear of falling. Fortunately, many mobility problems can be eased with physical devices that make getting around easier. Additionally, there may be local exercise groups nearby that cater specifically to the elderly, and these might prove helpful in partly overcoming fear of falling.
Person Hygiene. From dressing and bathing to using the toilet, personal hygiene is important to all, no matter the stage of dementia they’re suffering from. While assisting a loved one with the toilet, for instance, may feel like an overstep of boundaries, many caregivers adapt and find it just a normal part of the caregiving routine. Utilizing tools here is helpful as well. From incontinence alarms to bars near the commode, tools can help you and your loved one maintain good personal hygiene standards.
Finances and legal issues. Handling your finances as well as your loved ones can be a challenge. It’s also important to find out if you are eligible for any tax relief or grants. It may be helpful to hire an accountant to help with financial problems, especially if your loved one may need to enter full-time care. Additionally, ensuring that your loved one has a lawyer, Power of Attorney named, and an up-to-date will is beneficial in preventing questions or legal trouble.
Security and Safety. Whether your loved one is moving in with you or is living on their own, their residence needs to be thoroughly proofed and secure. That may mean removing potential tripping hazards, locking away dangerous tools or items, setting up no-slip rugs in the bathrooms, and maybe even gates around stairs to prevent falls. As each home is different, proofing it to a safe and secure standard will look differently, but the important thing is that the house is secure. For some people, notes with instructions on where items go, especially in the kitchen, can be very helpful to prevent losses or accidents. Additionally, check all carbon monoxide and smoke detectors and replace the batteries. If your loved one is prone to wandering, additional locks, alarms or a tracking device on a necklace may be helpful. Some people have cameras set up that trigger an alarm when one walks out the door, which can offer peace of mind as well.
Social Life. Oftentimes, people with dementia still crave and require a social life. Exercising that side of their brain is helpful as well. Finding a hobby that appeals to both you and your loved one can offer some variety in the daily schedule. For others, caregivers may take advantage of the opportunity to drop their loved one off at an elderly daycare one day a week where they can interact with others. Checking out what is available around where you live is a good step towards maintaining a vibrant and stimulating social life for your loved one.
Boredom and Loneliness. As previously mentioned, finding hobbies or an outlet can go a long way in relieving boredom in a loved one suffering from dementia. Creating a schedule and varying it up with activities and outings can improve one’s mindset.
Paranoia and Hallucinations. For some people struggling with dementia, paranoia and hallucinations are a common symptom of the disease. While struggling with these symptoms may be difficult for caregiving, trying to pinpoint the reason for the paranoia and hallucinations may help prevent these episodes from recurring. Talking with a health professional about these symptoms is the first step towards better handling them.
Aggression. For others suffering from dementia, they may display aggressive tendencies. As a caregiver and a loved one, aggression and anger can be difficult to deal with. Understanding more about this particular branch of dementia may give you more insight into how to deal with it. Practicing calming behaviors, like breathing exercises can oftentimes help prevent an act of aggression without medication. It is always helpful though to discuss these episodes of aggression with a medical professional and if the medicine is prescribed to ensure it is taken regularly.
Challenges for the Caregiver.
Taking care of oneself. It’s important that you as a caregiver take time away from your loved one to relax, pamper, and rest. You must take care of yourself first before you can care for someone else. Sometimes self-care looks like an evening alone with a movie, or perhaps it looks like trading your caregiving duties with a family member or professional one day a week. Whatever it is, find something that fits you and your schedule and do it regularly.
Keeping others informed. Family circumstances can make this one difficult, but it’s important to keep your other family members informed about the day-to-day routine and struggles with your loved one. Creating a group chat where you can give weekly updates, or scheduling a monthly chat to discuss the care of your loved one is important for you and your family members.
Deciding when to let go. For most caregivers, this is a difficult choice to make. Knowing the signs when caregiving for your loved one is too much for you is an important step. If your loved ones come to you and tell you that it’s too much for you, that may also be a sign that you should hand your caregiving responsibilities over to someone else. This isn’t a fault on your caregiving skills or an issue of love, but rather proof that you did your best and tried as hard as you could. Finding a group that can support you through your caregiving time and after is important. Relying on your support network isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather can be a source of strength.
With each challenge facing your loved one, you as a caregiver face an equally daunting challenge of how to handle it and move forward. It is vital to remember that there is always help and support available, just waiting for you to ask.
Holly Clark is a long-time professional carer and part of the content team at The Long Reach. Her writing mainly focuses on elder care and well-being.