Over 50 million people around the world have dementia, a neurodegenerative disorder that leads to memory loss and cognitive decline. If you have a person in your life that has dementia, you’ve likely found yourself thrust into a caregiving role that you might not have been prepared for.
While the majority of caregivers of dementia patients say that it’s a reward experience, one poll showed that 78% of caregivers say that it’s also a stressful experience.
Learning how to take care of your loved one is important, but taking good care of yourself is equally important. Your stress, emotion, and frustration will translate into the care you give while also negatively impacting your mental and physical health.
In this post, we’re going to focus on you. It might feel selfish to do so when your loved one is going through so much, but taking care of you is just as important.
Keep reading to learn more.
It’s easy to panic when you hear a diagnosis like dementia. Taking the time to educate yourself about the disease, the stages it goes through, and your loved one’s outlook is going to help you understand what they’re going through while also giving you a clearer outlook on the future.
Having that background knowledge can calm some of your fears and give you the understanding you need to move forward.
Celebrate (and Let Go of) the Small Things
Frustration and misunderstanding are two common happenings with dementia patients. You may get frustrated that they don’t remember something you just told them, or that they want to wear an outfit that’s not appropriate for where you’re going.
Focus on letting small things like that go. It doesn’t help you or the patient. It will add more stress to your life and make your loved one feel embarrassed, angry, or upset.
Learn to let go of the little things. But, on the other hand, you should also celebrate the small things, too.
When your mother remembers to brush her teeth on her own, celebrate that! When you go out to your father’s favorite museum without incident, celebrate that! When you have an hour to yourself reading your favorite book, celebrate that!
Focusing on the positives in life has been scientifically proven to make you feel generally more positive.
Life Doesn’t End with a Diagnosis
Dementia is scary and has serious impacts on patients’ and caregivers’ lives. However, it isn’t a death sentence.
Make the most of your time with your loved ones now, and remember that they’re still here with you! You can still live life and have fun with them; you don’t have to focus on the negatives of dementia and healthcare.
Go to the park, go on trips, watch movies together, do a puzzle, go for long walks, do things together that you both enjoy! While you may need to adjust and grieve the loss of how this person used to be pre-diagnosis, don’t let that cloud your current relationship.
Hire Caregiving Help
It might feel selfish or impersonal to hire help or to have your loved one go into an assisted living home. But it’s not. It’s important that your loved one receive the best help possible, and most people can’t do that alone.
Learn more about your options for assisted living or caregiving services for dementia patients. This will give you peace of mind that your loved one is getting the best care possible, and it will allow you to focus less on caregiving and more time living your life.
Get Some Help to Take Care of Yourself
Any serious medical condition in either yourself or a loved one is going to stir up a myriad of emotions: denial, frustration, sadness, anger, fear, stress, etc.
You can take steps to mitigate these emotions with the steps we outline above, but you should also consider therapy or counseling. Going to therapy can help you deal with all of the emotions you’re feeling as well as help you set up coping skills to properly deal with them.
Join a Support Group
Becoming a caregiver can feel like a lonely and isolating experience. But there are millions of other people out there going through the exact same experience as you.
Find these people to get support from those who truly understand your situation. Whether this is an in-person support group, an online blog, or a chatroom, you can find others out there who you can vent to, get advice from, and get support from.
Take Part in Self-Care Activities That You Enjoy
Remember how we said that your loved one’s life doesn’t end with a diagnosis? Neither does yours! While you now have a responsibility to your loved one, you also have a responsibility to yourself to enjoy your life.
Doing activities that you love can lower stress, bring you happiness, and make your life happier even in the face of a tough diagnosis like dementia. Consider daily or consistent exercise to help you stay healthy and improve your mood.
Remember all of your hobbies and do them on a regular basis, whether that’s reading a book or gardening or taking a pottery class. Treat yourself with your favorite snack after a long day or a long bubble bath after a frustrating outing.
You Are Important
Dementia in a loved one can feel like it takes over your entire life. But learning to take care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your loved one.
Follow these tips to show yourself the same compassion, love, and care that you’re giving to your loved one.
Stress oftentimes makes it hard for people to sleep at night. If that sounds like you, check out our article on how you can improve your sleep schedule if you’re suffering from stress-induced insomnia.