One of the biggest problems we face in dementia care are stress, sadness, and depression. As a result, we need to take proactive steps to insure we avoid deep sadness and stay on mission.
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room
Sadness is a normal human emotion. Sadness is often triggered by a difficult, hurtful, challenging experiences, or situation.
In our case, caring for someone living with dementia can lead to a deep sadness.
This deep sadness sometimes feels like depression. When this happens we sometimes lose our ability to function properly. It sometimes feels hopeless.
In order to reduce or remit this sadness we as caregivers must take action to insure we don't fall into the trap that often comes with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia.
1. Don’t take on more responsibility than you can handle. Learn to ask for help when you need it. Consider putting together a team of friends and relatives to share the burden. Don't go it alone.
2. Adult Day Services. Adult day care services take place in a professional care setting in which adults living with dementia, receive individualized social and health services for some part of the day, or all day. Typically, caregivers avoid day services when their loved says they will refuse to go. This is common. In fact, while most dementia patients complain about this they actually thrive in day services.
Did you know? Many states provide aide for caregivers to defer the cost of adult day services. The best way to find out is to call a facility that provides services for dementia patients near you and ask if there is any assistance available. Sometimes it falls under the category of "respite care". Sometimes private foundations provide funding for what is the equivalent of a "scholarship". It doesn't hurt to ask.
3. Caregiving can be overwhelming. Learn to make lists so you can get to the more important tasks first. Many of you are probably familiar with the 36 Hour Day. That is what is often feels like.
You need to develop a set routine so you can focus on one thing at a time.
If you don't organize the day you might start to feel overwhelmed. I know it is difficult to "ask for help", but this is a necessary component of effective caregiving.
4. Remember to compliment and congratulate yourself every day. Don't forget you are caring for a person who needs you so much. A person who could not operate effectively without you. Caring for a person with dementia is a yeoman task. You know this, I know this, and those around you know this to be true.
Friends might say, "I don't know how your do it", they might call you a "saint", or they might even tell you that "you are going to Heaven" as a result of your good works. When it happens, let it sink in. They are congratulating you. But it is also important for you to "congratulate yourself". You deserve the admiration of others.
5. Find ways to relax and reduce stress. Consider trying: meditation, visualizing comforting or pleasant scenes, listening to music, reading, or playing games on a computer.
6. Pay close attention to your own health. Eating nutritious meals and exercising is a must. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Take care of yourself.
7. You need to get away for a bit. My real friends would come over and entertain my mom, or let me drop her off for a few hours while I went out on my own. Sometimes I went to a movie, sometimes I met a friend for a few drinks. I am not much of a drinker myself (I never drink at home), but to be honest I needed a drink, some friendship and a good conversation every once in a while. I bet you do too. I was always amazed at how much better I felt after a few hours. A few hours of freedom goes a long way when you are a caregiver.
You need to carve out time to do things that you enjoy. This is not only necessary for your own well-being, it will make you more effective in your caregiving effort.
8. Information is empowering and brings with it the feeling that you are taking control; rather than, being controlled by an illness or the situation. One of the most difficult things to do is to get educated. You can never know enough about your loved one's condition. You never know when you are going to learn something that can make a big difference. Learning something new that improves your caregiving is very rewarding and empowering.
9. Join a support group. In a good support group you will learn valuable lessons, get new ideas, and tips that can really make a difference. In a good support group you get to "vent" with real people that understand where you are "coming from". Most importantly, in a good support group you will learn over and over "you are not alone".
10. You need people you can talk to about your frustrations and successes. If family won't do it you need to find friends or new friends that will. Sometimes you can find these new friends at a support group or at Church. You can grow those friendships into more meaningful relationships. You need to let it come out. Learn to identify people that will willingly listen. And, I mean LISTEN.
11. Make sure you see your own doctor and take care of your own health. Watch out for feelings of stress. Talk to your doctor about stress and stress reduction methods.
12. Don't hesitate to contact your local University wellness or memory care center. Many Universities now have specialty memory care centers that also help caregivers to do a better and more effective job.
You might be surprised to learn that most Universities have a wealth of information and services that can benefit you. They might be conducting research or studies that could be beneficial to you also.
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Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room
Sadness is a normal human emotion. Sadness is an emotional pain associated with, or characterized by, feelings of disadvantage, loss, despair, grief, helplessness, disappointment and sorrow.
Depression is an abnormal emotional state, a mental illness that affects our thinking, emotions, perceptions, and behaviors. When we’re depressed we feel sad about everything.
Stress is a reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium. We generally use the word "stress" when we feel that everything seems to have become too much - we are overloaded and wonder whether we really can cope with the pressures placed upon us.
Caregiver is a person who gives help and protection to someone who is sick or in need.