Acting as the family caregiver for an adult with dementia or Alzheimer's Disease is rewarding and quite difficult at times. At Weatherly Inn, we understand the challenges of caring for a senior family member with dementia, and we're here to help.
Today we're going to talk about the specific challenges associated with dementia care, with a look at what caregivers can do to ease their workload and limit their anxiety.
Here, we'll address the value of a support system for caregivers, as well as self-care topics and planning for the future of your loved one. As always, if you'd like to know more about our memory care services, contact us.
Let's start with the value of a support system.
Family Caregivers Need a Support System
We know how tough caregiving can be! You've committed to ensuring your loved one is well-fed, well-groomed, and making it to all their essential medical appointments. You're also tasked with medication management, visiting the pharmacy often, and you're probably handling his or her bookkeeping. Add some extra laundry, cooking, and housekeeping in the mix; it can become overwhelming.
- Know that caregiver burnout is a genuine phenomenon (we've blogged about it here), and know there's no shame in it!
- It happens to nearly every family caregiver at some point, especially those tasked with the challenges of caring for a senior family member with dementia.
But you'll last longer physically and feel better emotionally if you can drum up some support.
Where to Find Support
Your siblings or other relatives might be able to help with dementia care. As a caregiver, you've probably developed some outstanding scheduling skills. Try these ideas, and work them into your schedule:
- Ask a sibling or a trusted neighbor to sit with your family member one evening per week. This gives you time to address other chores or personal care (more on that in a moment).
- Ask a family member to host your loved one for dinner once or twice a week. This allows you to have some private time with your significant other.
- Ask younger family members — the teens — to be in charge of one or two simple tasks every week. Maybe they can take the trash cans out or sweep the porch. As teenagers, they might forget. If they're lackadaisical about the responsibility, and you find yourself stressing out about it, find someone else. The point is that you have less responsibility, not more. So don't chase them.
- Seek help from support groups — here's a list of Washington state caregiver support groups you can contact today.
- Adult daycare and respite care programs help, too. By allowing a professional caregiver to help your family member, you can find freedom for an afternoon or a week!
Financial support is important too. Talk to your family about funding. Maybe one of them will step up with some cash or absorb a payment. Make sure your entire family understands the physical and financial duties involved with caring for an older adult with dementia at home.
Practice Empathy and Patience
If your family member was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease (AD) or dementia, know that challenging days are ahead. It's scary to lose cognitive function. Your loved one might get upset, angry, even throw childish temper tantrums or verbally attack you.
We think this SeniorLifePA.com blog says it best: "One of the biggest challenges caregivers report is the buildup of frustration, anger, and anxiety about their loved one. [Trying to] help a person with dementia understand facts or reality can often lead to anguish and frustration."
- People with dementia or AD experience lapses in memory, reality, and facts.
- For instance, they may believe they are children for a few hours or be utterly convinced that their deceased spouses are still alive.
- During these times, it's best to "meet them where they are."
- Ask them questions about their childhood experience, or their spouse's appearance. This can be beneficial to their memory, and put you both in a better mood.
We know it's hard to swallow, but the best thing you can do for everyone is to try to maintain some patience and empathy.
Caregivers Should Add Some Self-Care into the Home Care Routine
The unique challenges of caring for a senior family member with dementia are financially, physically and emotionally draining.
Again, caregiver burnout is a real thing! The demands of caring for a loved one with cognitive issues / memory loss will cause stress that can damage your career, your marriage, your family life and your self-esteem. It can cause health issues like high blood pressure (hypertension) and debilitating headaches.
So be sure you're adding some self-care into your daily or weekly routine to relieve this stress. And remember that you have a life to live, too.
Ideas for Self-Care for Caregivers
- Take a bubble bath and get to bed an hour early.
- Take a private walk around the block to clear your mind.
- Use a respite care service to escape for a weekend to a hotel.
- ASK FOR HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT
Ultimately, there will come a time when your loved one needs a higher level of care than can be provided at home. Alzheimer's Disease and dementia cannot be cured. This doesn't mean you've failed as a caregiver. It means you've done a great job as long as you possibly could. Just know there will come a time when medical professionals in a specialized facility will need to take over. By thinking about this issue now, you'll ease the switch to long-term care later.
Make a Plan for Your Loved One's Future
We know how much you love your family member. Still, it's inevitable that you will need in-home help or to move them to assisted living, eventually. Many dementia caregivers feel it's time to make a move when their loved one struggles with most of their activities of daily living (ADLs), like feeding and dressing themselves and continence / toileting.
Hopefully, you've been communicating with other family members throughout this time, and they'll be ready to support you emotionally and financially as you make a move towards assisted living or full-time dementia care.
No matter how much you care about them, caring for a senior family member or loved one with dementia takes tremendous strength and patience. We encourage you in this role and hope you have the support you need.
But if it becomes too overwhelming, and you need to start looking for professional assistance, explore the memory care and dementia services we provide at our two locations. Or go a step farther. Schedule a virtual tour to get a better feel for memory care and dementia care services at Weatherly.