This is the first of five blogs that share a goal of empowering Caregivers to find the best balance possible when life changes and roles evolve.
Tip Number 1
Let's face it, when a loved one is living with dementia, roles and responsibilities change. As the illness progresses, the importance in surrounding one's self with a support team increases. Attempting to manage alone without respite relief, can be a recipe for disaster.
So now's the time to Rally the Troops:
We all have our own support systems: some are informal, consisting of closest friends, family, and perhaps members of our health care team. The others are more formal, those we meet at social functions, clubs, churches, and other organizations where bridges have been built, but seldom crossed.
As a caregiver or partner of a loved one living with dementia, it is important to embrace and utilize a supportive group of individuals, who will be instrumental in providing both a listening ear type of support, and possible respite relief.
Can I rely on my family?
At times dynamics ensue in families, because there are differences in perception as to how the individual living with dementia is managing. We all formulate our opinions based on knowledge, past experiences, observation, biases etc. It is fascinating how many discrepancies there can be between adult children, when they observe an aging parent exhibiting changes in mood and behaviour.
A consideration for the caregiver is to understand that perception can enhance, or cloud our view of the situation at hand. It is also important to understand that not everyone has the desire, capacity or time to be a frontline helper.
In assembling the troops keep this in mind. If there are children, not all will be equally available to help, and often much time is lost lamenting perceived indifferences, snubs or disappointments in loyalty.
This is the time to embrace those who are ready, interested, and able to help, as dementia progresses.
Food for Thought
Not everyone will be able to offer respite and spend time with a loved one: so if offered, accept other acts of kindness:
- Offers to purchase packaged meals or an occasional delivery service, is a wonderful gift which provides a valuable break for the Caregiver
- Errand runners are always helpful: need dry cleaning picked up?
- Transportation provider; a lift to a medical appointment and no parking issues is wonderful
- Income tax wizard; is someone in your circle able to help?
- Household chores: indoors and outdoors etc.: saving energy and accept help.
- Ask for a date commitment and mark times on the calendar so appointments can be made for the caregiver
- Try to arrange times when the individual living with dementia is feeling the most well. If a person has a history of sundowning, (becoming more confused as the day progresses), avoid these times for helpers
- Leave out items of interest that can be enjoyed together, like movies, puzzles, card games, picture books etc. Tools to help pass the time will reduce anxiety for the individual with dementia and promote a comfortable visit
- Stick to return times, being respectful of the gift is time is paramount.
- Be gracious, at times caregivers expect commitments of time and forget to say thank you, even if family are helping. Remember grown children also have their own lives.
Are you placing barriers between You and the troops?
Think about the offers of aid, and your response to them. If someone you trust is genuinely offering help, consider what are the barriers to acceptance? Declining offers will eventually cause a reduction, or cessation in offers from the affected party. No one wants to be perceived as interfering.
Mind you, not all offers have the same weight and merit, so choosing your help team is highly individualized.
No man or woman is an island...
Loving someone, and being a caregiver requires additional energy, time, patience, and stamina. Reflecting about, then building a supportive network, will improve your ability to continue to assist your loved one living with dementia, while maintaining a sense of self identity.
Look for our next blog...Tip #2 Self Care