Caring for a person with dementia can be demanding and demoralizing. So it’s no surprise that many carers find themselves struggling on in silence. Here’s a few ways to help lighten the load
Why dementia can feel relentless
The dementia journey often last for years, the changes in the person you care for are often gradual. Whilst this means you have plenty time to get used to the condition, to learn as much as you can about dementia, and to make the most of the good days, it also means you’re likely to experience quite a lot of bad days too, which can slowly chip away at your morale. Sleepless nights can become increasingly common too, leave you feeling exhausted, which then affects your mood, making you more prone to low moods and depression. Eventually, you might find yourself ‘on call’ 24 hours a day, with an increasing amount of duties and responsibilities.…and no end in sight.
Could this be YOU?
Sometimes you try so hard. You are patient, kind and compassionate to the person you care for. You try to engage them in conversation, you answer all their questions over and over again, you make sure they eat and drink enough, you take them out, you manage their personal care if needed, you take all the advice you’re offered…but nothing seems to make much difference. Tomorrow you have to do the same thing all over again.
3 more reasons the dementia journey can be relentless
1. You feel isolated – You work long hours for what seems like very little reward
2. It can wear you down – The longer the journey lasts the more you will probably have to do, and the harder it can get.
3. There’s no happy ending – There’s no cure for dementia yet, so no matter how hard you try, or for how long, the person you love won’t recover.
4 ways to feel better
1. Share how you feel – you will soon discover that you aren’t as isolated as you think, if you talk to other people in a similar position. There are thousands and thousands of people in the UK alone caring for loved ones with dementia and whilst this knowledge might not make caring any easier, it could definitely help you to feel less alone.
Tip: Make a start now by joining the Unforgettable Dementia Support Group
2. Take a break – easier said than done? Maybe a fortnight in the sun is out of the question but a few hours away from home, whilst a friend or relative takes over, could still help you to recharge the batteries.
3. Vary what you do – familiar routines can be beneficial for people with dementia, making them feel safe and secure. However, if you’ve become a slave to the routine it can make life very dull. Boredom is a challenge at the best of times for family carers, so if the sheer monotony of each day is getting to you, perhaps you could shake up the routine a bit? A new activity in the morning or an enjoyable outing could make a difference to how you both feel.
Tip: Have you tried a dementia-friendly cinema screening? A growing number of cinemas now offer regular special film screenings for people with dementia, (usually in the morning or afternoon) with reduced price tickets and free refreshments. Go here for more information.
4. Every moment matters – your loved one may never be the same person they used to be, and whilst you need to give yourself time to grieve for this loss, to feel tearful and sad, learning to treasure the good moments you still share together (however small or fleeting they may be) can help you to see things differently and to appreciate what you still have. With any luck, it might also make the caring journey feel a little less relentless