When a loved one receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, all thoughts and actions are instantly adjusted to their needs. Your world has been turned upside down. But your own well being is now more important than ever. Because if you are not operating on all cylinders, everyone around you will suffer. Good care giving means taking care of yourself, as well as your loved one.
Here are some tips that we regularly pass along to family members of individuals suffering from dementia. They will help you gain the strength, resolve and emotional wellness needed to “keep calm and carry on”.
- Educate yourself: It’s important to learn as much as you can about the disease. Be organized in your efforts. Resist the impulse to flood yourself with information, however. Here is a list of trusted resources you can use to quickly find what you need, depending on your situation.
- Tackle legal needs: This may seem like a huge obstacle to overcome. Yes, there are lots of documents that you will need to give you “power of attorney”, a requirement to make legal decisions on behalf of your loved one. Locate a local attorney who specializes in “elder law”. They will be able to help you. You should also visit the legal and financial page of the Alzheimer’s Association. There are articles and resources there. Once you cross this bridge, you and your family will
- Take care of your physical self: Now, more than ever, you need to care for your own health. Schedule a check-up if you haven’t already. Explain your situation to your physician. He or she may have additional resources through your healthcare provider to help you get and keep your health in order. Consider short term “respite” care for your loved one from time to time, to give yourself an occasional break of a week or so to take care of your own health and wellbeing.
- Take care of your emotional self: If you have considered using a therapist before, now may be the best time to do it. Try to find someone who specializes in helping caregivers. They can help you accept the changes that will occur with your loved one, as well as your own changes in attitude. Look into finding a local dementia support group, where you can spend quality time with other caregivers in similar situations. Caregivers tell us that these groups give them something to look forward to; an oasis of sorts in their hectic worlds.
One last thought. As you tackle each of the above, be sure to stop and tell yourself regularly, “I am doing the best I can.” Those seven words will go a long way towards lowering your stress levels and keeping your emotional health intact.