Caring for a loved one with dementia can be challenging. Not only are you responsible for ensuring their safety and meeting their needs, but you’re most likely grieving for the person they used to be. Learning to be patient and strong for a person with dementia, while ensuring that you take care of your own needs, can be a difficult balancing act. You also probably know the joys that come with caring for someone you love, however, no matter how challenging it can be at times. In order to have the energy and strength to show your love and caring, here are a few tips for coping with personality changes and new demands.
When caring for a loved one who has dementia, you will face many trials. The person you knew so well is experiencing something out of anyone’s control. And sometimes, it will be hard to see the bright side. However, you can choose to remain positive through the trials.
When communicating with your loved one, it will be especially important to remain positive—be mindful of your body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. Keep in mind that dementia is affecting both of you.
Give reminders with grace
In conversations with your loved one, try to be upfront and concise about what you need from them. Remember that the experience can be frustrating for both of you, be prepared to repeat information, sometimes multiple times. Try to write down any reminders and consider setting alarms to remind your loved one to do things such as take their medicine or eat lunch.
Keep in mind that your loved one might feel angry, sad, or frustrated. Allow them to express their feelings and acknowledge what they’re going through. Sometimes, spending time in nature may calm them down by providing a fresh and calming environment.
Express your emotions and get support
Stay connected with friends, relatives, and community organizations. Trying to go through this experience alone could make you feel isolated and overwhelmed. If you have friends or family nearby, consider asking them to come to spend time with you for a while. You can also consider joining a support group to talk to other people who are experiencing situations similar to yours. You can ask for advice, coping strategies, and get ideas that you can implement in your own life.
Consider respite care or assisted living
Respite care and other similar services can provide care for your loved one when you need a break. Care providers can stay with your loved one for a few hours, days, or weeks and can take place at your home, in their facility, or adult day center.
As the dementia progresses, you’ll want to consider more long-term options. Assisted living centers can provide your loved one with professional care and structured routines and allows them to make social connections. Keep in mind that transitioning your loved one to an assisted living center doesn’t mean that you can’t handle being a caregiver. Most of the time, it’s simply the best option for the health of you and your loved one. Trying to be the full-time caregiver can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health, and it can even put a strain on your relationship.
Don’t try to do everything yourself
You will only feel frustrations by placing unrealistic demands on yourself. If there are things that your loved one use to take care of that they can no longer do, don’t get overwhelmed. If you don’t know how to fix a broken washer machine, look into homeowner protection services instead of taking on complex repairs yourself. You will save yourself time, frustration, and money. Home protection plans will be especially important for those who plan to downsize after transitioning their loved one to assisted living. With these plans, you can get your appliances checked and get necessary repairs before getting a home inspection and putting your home on the market.
Find joy in the small wins
Celebrate small accomplishments with your loved one—not just for them, but for you. When you have a good day, practice gratitude. When your loved one has a good day, practice gratitude. Being able to give thanks in the midst of hardship will give you strength to get through the harder battles. Try to savor every good moment with your loved one while you have the time. In the long-run, you’ll be able to look back at the experience and remember the good things. One easy way to do this is with a daily gratitude journal. Try to write something good that happened that day or something you’re grateful for. On the hard days, take a few minutes to look at your journal and be reminded of the good things in your life and appreciate all of the special moments and small wins throughout the process.
About the author: Emma Cook is a recent graduate and freelance writer working hard to build her portfolio. Whether it’s aging, home life, or mental health, her goal is to empower others to live their fullest life—and her strategy is writing.