Caring for someone living with Dementia, whether it’s for a few hours a week or full-time is challenging, stressful and emotional. Accepting that you are only human – even as a carer – and really can only do so much can be almost impossible.
In this article we provide information and techniques to help you introduce some self-care into your life.
Recognising a Dementia carer
Looking after someone we love is just something we all do. Sons and daughters may find themselves taking on a reverse role and becoming the ‘parent’ as they care for their Mum or Dad.
Couples, who have been together for years, where now one is looking after the other slowly adapt their lifestyles as circumstances change – often apparently almost seamlessly to anyone on the outside.
As the health of the person cared for diminishes all too often the carer neglects their own needs. Recognising yourself – or one of your parents – as a carer is an important first step.
Saying “yes” to help
Research has proven that those in a caring role who take time out for themselves provide a better level of care. A change is as good as a rest as the saying goes. But – we know it’s much easier said than done.
Taking time out is important, no-one should feel they have to do it all alone. Scheduling in and taking regular breaks to do other things are good for a Dementia carer’s physical and mental well-being.
When someone offers help, the answer should always be “YES”.
Make a list of the ways people could help – from collecting a prescription to spending the afternoon with your parent. Don’t wait for the offer of help – be prepared with the list!
Getting Dementia support from respite care
Respite care may offer the solution needed for more than a few hours away from caring. With this type of care, you can organise a few days off or more.
Have a look to see if there are any local groups that provide respite, trips out or other suitable activities. You should also be able to find daycare centres. The local church, WI and charities may well have suitable short-term options.
Keeping busy with family and friends
It’s both important but also extremely beneficial to keep in touch with family and friends. Socialising and talking to others can really help, especially when you are feeling overwhelmed. Try and set some time aside every day to do this.
Encouraging parents to keep up with hobbies or just things they enjoy doing has two major benefits: the distraction allows you to take a break and providing something meaningful to do will add richness and pleasure.
There may also be local organisations and groups that provide respite and time out – lunch clubs for dementia carers – or events organised by the church, the WI or other charities. It’s really worth checking out what might be available – also local trips and activities – just for a change of scene if nothing else.
Connecting with other Dementia carers
Finding others who are in the same situation as a carer can prove helpful – swapping stories with those who can understand can be very cathartic. Check out Alzheimer’s UK and Carers UK for local groups nearby providing dementia support for carers.
Online Dementia support forums
In addition to meeting in person, there are online 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, the Carers Trust forum and our own dementia carers forum.
There’s no such thing as a “perfect carer”
There is no job description for being a carer for an elderly parent. It’s bloody hard emotionally and practically.
It is also a privilege to be able to look after someone who spent years looking after you, and knowing that you did everything you could to care for them when they needed it.
Guilt is a much over-rated emotion and one to be avoided wherever possible.