5 Truths for Dementia Caregivers
There are so many more, but let's start here!
If you are like me, you feel a real pull to provide care for your parents. After all, they took care of you as an infant, baby, toddler, into your adolescents and young adult hood. They gave you advice about school, work, marriage, and starting your own family. They were around to help when the babies came, and perhaps provided some awesome babysitting while you worked or just went out to have fun. We owe them, we feel a real responsibility to take care of them.
But, maybe you grew up differently. Perhaps you were not close to your parents, didn’t have the same emotional ties that others experienced. Perhaps caring for your parents seems more like a chore than a way to give back. That’s okay. No judgement here. We all grow up differently, and we all have different ways of coping with our own pasts, our own present, our own future; our pain, sorrow, grief, guilt, even our anger.
Regardless of your own personal situation, if you are a caregiver for a parent or other family member, maybe even a friend living with dementia, I would love to share some words of encouragement and a little advice. I know, I know, you are tired of advice. No one can possibly understand the situation you are in. Nobody is dealing with the day to day challenges that you face. No one could possibly know or understand what you are going through. Well, here a few truths!
1. You are not alone. There are many, many forms of dementia. Many share the same challenges and some come with a list of challenges all their own, but you are not alone, so open your mind to accepting help and be willing to try new things.
2. You cannot do it alone. Caring for someone with dementia can be difficult mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially. Don’t isolate yourself with a determination to do it all by yourself. There are people in your life who want to help, but may not know how. Tell them what you need. Find a support group, and attend regularly. Tell your story, give others a glimpse of what you are going through and let them share their story. Give and take advice.
3. Yes, time is short. But take time. Let a friend sit with your loved one while you take some much needed time for yourself, and do a search for services that will help both your loved one, and you. There are hundreds and thousands of people just like me, who can help you. But if you don’t reach out, if you don’t accept help, you will very likely become infirmed or possibly even die before your loved one.
4. You will experience a myriad of emotions. Sadness, anger, guilt, and frustration will make their appearance on a daily basis, and that is okay. If needed, move out of sight of your loved one and have a little meltdown. Even professionals experience these emotions, and you can find us in the strangest places shedding tears, cursing under our breathe, or maybe even punching a wall. The trick is to allow yourself the meltdown in private, then pull yourself together and put a smile on your face. Attending support group can help you deal with these emotions, so make sure you are attending.
5. Isolation WILL lead to depression. If you isolate yourself alone with your loved one because you are afraid of what might happen in public, or because going out just seems too hard, you will both suffer the consequences of depression. A Memory Café in your area will give you both the opportunity to socialize in a safe place, with folks who are facing the same challenges that you are facing. But you have to try! If you can’t find one in your area, talk to your support group about starting one, and have some fun together!
Julie Bigham is the author of "Creating Joy Filled Visits in the Midst of Alzheimer's", available on Amazon. She also has a free monthly newsletter filled with activity ideas, and hosts the Joy Filled Visits Memory Café in Charlotte, NC. Check out more on the Joy Filled Visits website, www.joyfilledvisits.com.