The work that caregivers do is an example of some of the most selfless, pure love that exists. That being said, taking care of a loved one with dementia can be an incredibly challenging and emotionally taxing experience. As a caregiver, it’s easy to focus all your attention on the needs of your loved one and neglect your own self-care. However, it’s crucial to remember that in order to be an effective caregiver, you need to take care of yourself as well. In fact, you’re going to be better equipped to take on challenges and maintain a positive, happy mental state as a result.
The long-term care impact on caregivers
Family caregivers have often been referred to as invisible second patients. The rationale behind this name is that caregivers of people with dementia are more likely to experience significant emotional and physical strain, including depression, anxiety, and fatigue, than caregivers of people with other conditions. This is largely due to the burden they may feel, both mentally and financially, amongst other factors. They are also at higher risk of developing their own health problems, including heart disease and hypertension.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 11 million Americans provided unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Not only is this figure astounding as far as the sheer number of care being provided by loved ones, but it demonstrates exactly how many people are at risk for these long term effects.
The daily challenges
Being a caregiver for a loved one with dementia means that you are faced with daily challenges that take a significant amount of mental and physical energy to handle. Every day presents something new, and caregivers are tasked with adapting to new needs, remaining strong for their loved one, and putting their own needs second. Below are just a few examples of the challenges caregivers may face on a day-to-day basis.
Caring for a loved one with dementia can be emotionally stressful. You may experience a range of emotions, including anger, frustration, guilt and sadness.
Depending on the stage of dementia, your loved one may require assistance with basic activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and eating. This can be physically demanding and exhausting for the caregiver.
Depending on the level of care required, caring for a loved one with dementia can be expensive. This can put a strain on the caregiver’s finances, especially if they have to reduce their work hours or quit their job to provide care.
Caregiving can be a lonely experience, and it may make you feel socially isolated as you have less time for social activities and interactions with friends and family.
For those of you that are already providing care, you know firsthand how taxing these challenges can be. For family members of caregivers or those looking into taking on this role, it is important to be mindful of these inevitable challenges so that you can either offer help or prepare to begin scheduling and maintaining your own self-care.
Tips for taking care of yourself as a caregiver
As daunting as the above factors may seem, the truth is that they are far more manageable when your own proper care is in place. Taking care of yourself is crucial to maintaining your own physical and emotional health, and this goes for everyone, not just those providing care. Below are some of our most valuable tips that can help you take care of yourself along the way:
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family and friends or seek support from a caregiver support group. It’s important to have a network of people to lean on during trying times.
It’s important to take breaks to recharge your batteries. Even taking a short walk or a few minutes to yourself can make a big difference.
Make time for activities that help you relax and reduce stress, like exercise, meditation, or spending time with friends.
Continue to educate yourself on dementia and the best ways to care for your loved one. This can help you feel more confident and competent in your caregiving role. Check out a podcast or search YouTube for helpful resources and support.
Consider respite care
Respite care provides temporary relief for the caregiver by having someone else provide care for the loved one. This can be an excellent way to take a break and recharge so that you’re fresh and ready to go.
Being a caregiver for a loved one with dementia is one of the most rewarding yet tiring jobs you can take on. It’s so crucial for caregivers to prioritize their own self-care needs to maintain their own physical and emotional health. Remember, in order to provide the best care for your loved one, you need to make sure to take care of yourself as well.
Lance A. Slatton is a senior case manager at Enriched Life Home Care Services in Livonia, MI. He is also host of the podcast All Home Care Matters, a podcast and YouTube channel. By subscribing to the show, you will gain access to a wealth of information and tips that can help you provide the best possible care for your loved one. Find us on Apple podcasts or YouTube at @AllHomeCareMatters.