Looking after yourself as the carer of someone with dementia

Being a full-time or part-time carer of someone with dementia can be challenging.   It’s challenging to remain positive, deal with frustrations, stay healthy yourself, work with professionals as well as keeping up with family and friends.   It’s, therefore, important to look after yourself so you can continue to support your loved one in the best way possible.

Saying “yes” to help

Taking time out for yourself is important and remember you can’t do it all. Breaks are good for a carer’s physical and mental well-being.  When people offer to help, the answer should always be “YES.” Have a list of things people can do to help you, whether it is cooking a meal, picking up a prescription, helping in the garden or staying with your elderly parent while you run an errand. This will reinforce offers of help. It is harder to ask for help than to accept it when it is offered, so don’t wait until you “really need it” to get support.

Respite care

Sometimes more than a few hours off are needed and you may need to consider respite care for a few days or even a week or more.   This respite care (or replacement care as it is sometimes known) can be provided at home or you may consider moving your relative to residential care for a short holiday.   This can also be used as a stepping stone to see how they would cope if necessary to move them to residential care in the future.

Keeping up with family and friends

It’s important to keep in touch with family and friends and make sure that you do things that are non-carer activities to remember you have a life outside looking after you loved one.   Try and keep up with hobbies which can prove a useful distraction when times become stressful.    Spending even small amounts of time away from the house doing something social can leave you revitalised and ready to resume caring activities.

Others in the same situation

Finding others who are in the same situation as you as a carer can prove helpful – swapping stories with those who can understand what you are thinking about can be very cathartic.   Check out Alzheimer’s UK and Carers UK for local groups nearby.

On-line forums

In addition to meeting in person, there are on-line communities and forums.  These are a great way to share your experiences of caring for someone with dementia, as well as reading what others are going through.

Talking Point is the Alzheimer’s Society’s forum. It has people with dementia sharing their information and advice, and supporting each other.  Carers can also turn to on-line communities on the Carers UK forum and the Carers Trust forum.

You cannot be a perfect carer

Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect carer, be patient and take care of yourself.   You have the right to the full range of human emotions, and sometimes you are going to be impatient or frustrated.  Learning to forgive yourself for not being perfect is essential in the care journey.

If you have any experience you would like to share about caring for people with dementia, do join the conversation in Age Space Forum.