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FINANCES: Make sure you’re getting everything you’re entitled to –

1 – Get your council tax reduced
If the person you live with has dementia, they will be exempt from paying Council Tax, so your home will be charged as a ‘single person occupancy,’ which means, in effect, that you will get a 25 per cent reduction in your total council tax bill. If this is the first time you’ve heard about this don’t panic – you can get it backdated. Contact your local authority for more information.

Plus: If you’ve had any special facilities added to your home to help your loved one (such as a downstairs bathroom) your council tax band rating could be lowered. So if your home is in band ‘b’ it could now be classed as band ‘c’ – giving you another saving.

2 – Apply for a Blue Badge disabled parking permit
The popular Blue Badge parking scheme has now been extended to include ‘hidden’ disabilities such as dementia. This is great for people with dementia who are still driving, but it’s great news for caregivers too who can also apply for a permit. Once you have it, make sure to display the permit in your car when you’re taking your loved one out and you’ll find it far easier to park. Go here to find out how to apply:  https://www.gov.uk/apply-blue-badge

3 – Consider applying for NHS Continuing Health Care
If you are eligible for this, it could make a massive difference to your life. In fact, it might even mean that your loved one doesn’t have to sell their home to pay for care. NHS Continuing Health Care is essentially a package of care that is wholly funded by the NHS, so all your care costs are paid for by the NHS. The application process can be lengthy and challenging, but it’s definitely worth looking into.

Need some help or advice about Continuing Health Care? Please email our Caregiver in Chief Barbara Stephens barbara@liftedcare.com

4- Sort out a Lasting Power of Attorney

If you haven’t already sat down together and organised things such as setting up Lasting Power of Attorney or writing a Will, the New Year could be the perfect time to do it. The sooner it’s done, the better for everyone. If it’s left too late, and the person you care for begins to lose their mental capacity, the process can become much more complicated and costly.

FUN: Make the most of good days with your loved one –

5 – Create a life story together
Finding ways to connect can become increasing tricky as their condition progresses. However, whilst the person you care about may find it impossible to recall what happened last week, they’ll probably still have some vivid memories about the past and really enjoy reminiscing about days gone by. That’s why helping them to tell their life story can be a great project for you both in the New Year. As well as being a satisfying activity that brings purpose to each day, it’s also a very useful tool for you to reconnect and find topics of conversation that interest you both. You might even learn something you didn’t know!

6 – Make a bucket list
bucket list can help your loved one take back control and add some much needed excitement and purpose to life after a dementia diagnosis. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be filled with crazy stunts or luxury holidays. It could be something as simple as visiting a particular city in the UK that they’ve never been to or trying out a hobby that they’ve never done before. For inspiration and ideas go here.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF: You matter too so don’t be afraid to –

7 – Ask for help
Caring for someone with dementia can be really difficult physically and emotionally. So it’s really important that you make the most of people around you who can help. If you’re struggling to cope, contact your local council and ask for a carer’s assessment. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had one before, dementia is a progressive condition and your needs may be different now – you could be entitled to more support.

8 – Look after your health
It’s very easy to become so wrapped up in caring for your loved one that you neglect your own health. However noble your intentions, this is a flawed strategy because you need to be strong and well to be an effective carer. If your health deteriorates, you won’t be able to look after the person you love in the way you want, or feel they deserve.  Make 2019 the year that you make your own health a priority. Perhaps you haven’t been eating well, getting enough sleep or have been putting off that doctor’s appointment because you’re too busy. Maybe you’re using food or alcohol as a comfort, or just feel stressed all the time? If so, now’s the time to do something about it.

9 – Make more time for yourself
Booking in regular ‘me time’ is vital for ensuring that you remain a healthy and therefore an effective carer (as well as a happy one!). Make sure you schedule it in – even if it’s just an evening on your own at the cinema. You may also be able to book your loved one in for some respite care. And whatever you do, don’t feel guilty. You deserve time to recharge your batteries and, if anything, it will make you an even better carer.

10 – Find like-minded friends
Loneliness is one of the most painful and common emotions you’re likely to experience. Many carers find they see less and less of their old friends, either because they don’t have the time to socialise as much as they used to, or because friends simply don’t understand. However, it is possible to build new friendships with more like-minded people.

Here’s how we’re trying to connect carers:

* The Unforgettable Caregivers Club is free and easy to join and could make a big difference to your life. Our club offers friendship, support and inspiration to anyone who’s helping to care for a loved one with dementia. We’ll also send you a range of free e-books when you join.

* Our private Facebook group has nearly 7000 members, all supporting each other and sharing their thoughts, tips and concerns about different aspects of caring. Go here to join https://www.facebook.com/groups/UnforgettableDementiaSupport/