Acting as a caregiver for a loved one with dementia can be challenging, sometimes even heartbreaking. However, there are ways to approach the circumstances to make the situation more manageable. Specifically, the five strategies listed below can reduce the strain on you as a caregiver for a loved one with dementia.
Understand that Absolute Honesty is Neither Necessary nor Kind
A person with dementia does not always function rationally. As a result, explaining things rationally may needlessly upset your loved one rather than help him or her deal with the circumstances. For instance, your loved one may insist that he or she is a volunteer rather than a resident of a residential facility. There is no need to insist that he or she is a patient. Likewise, if you are caring for your loved one at home, it’s OK to tell your loved one you are going out for a drive to the park – and conveniently make a stop at the doctor’s office along the way.
Take Charge of the Situation
It’s true that adults often negotiate with one another, and discuss things like what to have for dinner or whose turn it is to wash the dishes. However, a loved one with dementia is functioning with limited capacity – especially in the advanced stages of the disease. Therefore, it’s necessary to take charge – inform your loved one that you’re having supper now rather than attempting to cajole or convince him or her to eat.
Provide Your Love One’s Doctor with Your Insights
The quality of care that a physician treating a patient with dementia may be limited because of the patient’s reduced capacity to convey his or her symptoms. Therefore, it’s up to you to inform your loved one’s medical care providers of symptoms or circumstances that should be addressed, such as wandering at night. Your insights can help your loved one’s professional caregivers make accurate assessments concerning the progression of the disease.
Maintain Reasonable Expectations about Yourself (and Your Loved One)
You and your loved one are each only human. He or she will have good days and bad days. Likewise, there will be days when your tolerance or patience is tested beyond your limits. Remind yourself that your loved one is operating from diminished mental capacity rather than maliciousness and that even the most loving and patient caregiver (that’s you) may express frustration from time to time. Forgive yourself and strive to handle the next challenge with more patience, if possible.
Take Care of Yourself, Too
You may feel as though acting as a caregiver is your duty to your loved one. You may even draw significant reward from your role. That doesn’t mean that you don’t need or deserve occasional breaks. When people ask if they can help, say yes. Let them fetch your clothes from the cleaners; accept their invitations for lunch. You should also consider professional respite care and support groups for caregivers. After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to provide optimal care for your loved one.
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