Becoming a carer for a loved one with dementia is a life changing experience. Each day can bring on new demands, new highs and new lows. If you work or have children of your own, the challenges of caring for your parent can be even more demanding. These can begin to take their toll on your health, family or marriage. It can be very challenging to adapt your role from child to caregiver and for many individuals, this shift can be overwhelming and isolating at first. Becoming more informed about dementia and focusing on planning can help you to juggle your roles and maintain a balanced lifestyle.
1.Do your research
Caring for someone with dementia may not come naturally. It isn’t intuitive. In fact, sometimes the logical thing is the wrong thing. Before you start administering care and treatment to your parent, you need to become well-versed in the diagnosis. Knowledge isn’t just a good thing for your parent’s well-being, it can also help reduce your stress levels as you’re in the right state of mind to deal with problems as they arise. There are a number of useful educational resources available to help you including:
Here are a few things to think about:
2. Find support & be kind to yourself
When a loved one is showing symptoms of dementia, it is normal to feel high levels of stress and even experience grief. It is very important to look after yourself. You may benefit from talking to other people about the new struggles you are facing. It is also important to note that you do not need to do everything on your own- get support from family members and outside resources.
Take time for yourself. Acknowledge your feelings and the impact your new role is having on your life and make a conscious decision to include YOUR needs into your daily and weekly routine. Maintain social connectedness and plan nice outings in advance.
Be kind to yourself. Nobody is perfect and there will be days when you lose patience or you feel as though you are not doing anything right. Give yourself positive messages to remind yourself of all the things you are doing well and focus on taking things one day at a time.
There are many organisations that offer support for children of parents with dementia that you can join or visit for added guidance and support including ‘The Alzheimer's Society of Ireland National Helpline’(firstname.lastname@example.org)
3.Have regular family meetings & quality family time
While caring for someone with dementia can quickly become the focus of attention for the whole household, young children and spouses can start to feel excluded or neglected. Make sure to take time to schedule activities for just the family. Planning in advance to ensure someone else is caring for your parent at this time can give you extra peace-of-mind and allow you to truly relax and enjoy the experience.
Sit down together as a family and have regular discussions about how the caregiving is impacting the family as a whole. Allow everyone to express their concerns and get their worries off their chest. Children are very intuitive and they will recognise that their grandparent, aunt or uncle’s behaviour is changing. Being honest with them and explaining the disease can help empower them to be a loving part of the caregiving process.
4.Keep your sense of humour and don’t be afraid to laugh!
Maintaining a positive attitude can be difficult, especially when your parent doesn’t remember who you are or makes some unfounded accusations or negative comments. During these periods, having a sense of humour can go a long way towards helping you stay on the positive side, forgive, and move on.
If you can open yourself up to the possibility of humour and laughter, you might find that certain situations actually become a little funnier and, therefore, a little easier to manage. Short-term memory loss and confusion can, in fact, bring up some quite funny conversations! The positive effects of laughter are numerous and if you have a loved one who's going through the stages of dementia, you could probably use the endorphin boost and increased bonding that shared laughter allows for.
While switching from being the child to the caregiver is never easy, increasing your knowledge base, implementing a support system, and maintaining a positive outlook can help to make the transition more manageable.
Adapted content from: Aegisliving.com, homecareassistance.com, caringseniorservice.com, dementia.ie, alzheimer.ie