Coping as a Carer
- Posted by:
- Damian Hope
- Dementia Car
- Posted date:
Coping as a Carer
When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia the effects can be devastating for family and friends. As the individual struggles to deal with the symptoms of their disease, those around them may grieve for the person who seems to be gradually disappearing and for the future they had planned together. The prospects may seem bleak but caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be both challenging and rewarding, with help you can look after your loved one, maintain your own well being and enjoy your time left together.
Look after your health
It can be all too easy to focus all your attention on the loved one with dementia and neglect your own health and wellbeing. Remember that to be a good carer you need to stay well, so take time to see to your own needs. Eat a balanced and nutritious diet, try to exercise regularly even if it is just a quiet walk and make sure you get enough rest and sleep.
If you have to lift or help move the individual with Alzheimer’s ensure that you are using the correct techniques so that you protect your back. Hoists and other aides are available if you are finding lifting difficult.
Take time out
Caring twenty-four hours a day can leave you exhausted and frustrated. Many carers feel guilty if they spend time away and use any respite time to catch up on household work and chores. But it is essential to take time for yourself to socialize, enjoy a hobby, read or travel. The time apart can leave you and your loved one refreshed and your relationship reinvigorated.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
It is not unusual for carers to feel embarrassed, guilty or ashamed to ask for help. But caring for someone with dementia can be hugely demanding both physically and emotionally. As the disease progresses it can be impossible to cope alone and carers who have less social support are more likely to become stressed and depressed. Seek assistance from friends and family, see your doctor for a care assessment and consider in home caregivers to share the strain.
Respite care in a day centre or residential facility could also help provide the break you need. By getting help earlier, you are actually more likely to be able to manage to care for your loved one at home for longer.
Fix the finances
A dementia diagnosis can put a strain on the family purse. You may need to stop or cut down work to care for your loved one. Speak to your employers to see if you can manage with flexible working. If you do need to stop work you may be entitled to a carer's credit so that your pension won't be affected.
Check with Age UK or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau that you and the individual with Alzheimer’s are getting all the benefits to which you are entitled.
Think about your financial future; getting wills, mortgage and house ownership details sorted early will help ensure security. You may also need to arrange a lasting power of attorney so that you are able to deal with and manage all your loved one’s financial affairs.
Understand your emotions
It is normal to feel anger, resentment and frustration when you are looking after someone with dementia. Caring can be challenging and exhausting and your negative feelings are nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about, they are just human nature.
It is also normal to worry about your actions in the early stages of the disease, when you were cross or irritated about confusion or memory lapses. Again this is natural, try to remember that you can’t change the past but you can do your best for the person you are caring for today.
Find emotional support
Often just talking about your situation with other people can help, especially if you can share with people who are going through the same thing. Friends and family can be a huge help practically and emotionally but sometimes it can help to speak to someone who is unconnected to your family unit. Professionals like GPs and counsellors can assist and it may be useful to join a local support group to chat and share tips. The internet provides a wealth of information and discussion forums can offer a virtual hand-hold day and night.
Be kind to yourself
Remember how well you are managing a difficult and demanding situation. Nobody is perfect; it’s OK to make mistakes and have negative feelings. Try not to compare yourself to other members of support groups who seem ‘perfect’. Everyone suffers insecurities and concerns, so don’t judge yourself harshly.
Enjoy your time together
Sometimes the practical demands and difficulties of caring for someone with dementia can mean that any pleasure and enjoyment in daily life can be sidelined. When possible try and spend time together doing things that you are both able to still enjoy: sitting in the sun with a cup of tea, pottering in the garden, playing board games or watching the TV together can enrich your relationship.
References and Further Research
Find out more about the range of dementia care services that we offer throughout London.