5 Ways To Take Care Of Yourself As Dementia Patient Caregiver
Dementia is a disease which adversely affects the cognitive ability of an individual. The loss of memory is so severe that it negatively impacts the daily functioning of the person with the disorder. Their problem-solving ability diminishes and they are unable to perform even the most basic of tasks. This is why, dementia patients require constant attention and support, both emotional and physical.
Caregiving for dementia patients is extremely challenging, exhausting and oftentimes, frustrating. The patient becomes fully dependent on the caregiver and in such a scenario it is not uncommon for the caregiver to neglect themselves.
For this reason, it is crucial that the caregivers take out time for themselves every now and again to properly take care of the patient. In fact, if the mental and physical health of the caregiver is not good, chances are that the caregiving journey will get all the more stressful and difficult for both the caregiver and the patient.
Taking care of dementia patient is like looking after a toddler. It is a full-time job, which not only tests your patience but is also physically and emotionally draining. Mentioned ahead are 5 simple ways to take care of yourself as a caregiver of a dementia patient:
- Prioritize your responsibilities
As a caregiver, you are mostly juggling multiple tasks at the same time. You have household chores to look after and other family commitments along with taking care of a dementia patient. However, it is important to realize that you are just one person and hence you cannot do everything.
Prioritize and get the essential things done first and don’t fret about things that were left undone. Failing in getting everything done is more frustrating and stressful than having few things left undone. If you are unable to manage and cope with the challenges of being a caregiver, the ideal thing to do would be to communicate and ask for help.
- Take a break
Caregiving for a dementia patient is undoubtedly tough. It is hard to see your loved ones in the state that they are in. Often, stress makes one angry and we end up shouting and getting upset with the person we are looking after. Dementia patients do not do anything intentionally but, at times, it is hard for caregivers to keep their cool. Thus, to avoid angry outbursts and frustration, it is necessary for the caregiver to take regular breaks from their duties.
The break does not need to be a long one. Spending some time alone, doing things you like and pursuing your interests will help you stay sane and strong. Ask friends or families to look after the patient for some time while you refuel your energy levels. You can even ask support groups and dementia societies to help you out. The key is to not feel guilty or selfish about taking some time off from your caregiving responsibilities. This will not only meet the physical, mental and emotional needs of you as the caregiver, but will be allow you to take better care of the patient simply because you’re feeling great!
Some of the things you can do to give yourself a break are:
- Go out for a walk
- Meet a friend
- Ask family and friends for help
- Pursue your hobbies and interests
- Meditate and relax
- Go out for shopping or a movie
- Enjoy a short vacation
- Use the services of support organizations
- Manage stress
The level of stress an individual experiences depends on the way they respond to a particular event or situation. Stress is relative and each individual will have different levels of stress in a similar situation. Since the stress levels are different, the coping mechanisms will also vary from person to person. Level of stress also depends on the situation you are in and factors such as whether caregiving was voluntary or involuntary, your relationship with the patient and your coping abilities.
Some general ways of managing stress are:
- Meditate or practice yoga
- Talk it out with a friend or family member
- Communicate openly with the patient
- Set realistic goals for yourself and avoid going overboard. Caring for dementia patients is not something temporary; it is a responsibility for the entire lifespan of the patient
- Identify sources of stress and be open about them
- Know your limits
- Prepare ahead
You need to understand that there is no cure for dementia. Doctors can slow down the process of memory loss but they cannot stop the inevitable. Hence, for an effective and comparatively smooth caregiving experience, you should plan ahead of time. It is beneficial to know as much as you possibly can about dementia so that you are mentally prepared for the journey ahead.
Usually, the most stressful situation is to run out of financial resources, therefore, plan your finances from the beginning. Take help from support organizations in all aspects of caregiving. Meet and share experiences with other caregivers to enhance your learning process. Also, be aware of all your available options as the patient’s condition changes with time.
- Eat well
Caring for dementia patients is a demanding job and requires lots of energy. Therefore, as a caregiver, it is vital to have a well-balanced diet, which includes fruits, vegetables, pulses, and fibers. You need to be physically fit to better take care of the patient.
Ensure that you have proper, on-time meals to have sufficient energy to last you throughout the day. Eating well will keep you physically and mentally fit, which is necessary to cope with everyday challenges and stress. As the patient’s condition worsens, you need to cope with and adapt to new challenges.
As stated earlier, caring for a dementia patient can be extremely frustrating and overwhelming which can result in serious consequences for both you and your patients. However, by following the 5 simple tips mentioned above, you will be better able to cope with tough situations and maintain control.