Caring for a mom or dad with dementia is one of the most challenging things you will ever do. Even if you have help, the wellbeing of your loved one is always on your mind. Your knowledge of how important your role is can be overwhelming at times, especially during the holidays. You become the gate-keeper for others who want to visit your parent. You are the one who will drive them to visit relatives. And you are the one who has to constantly be on the look-out for anything and everything that might trigger their anxiety or make them angry.
Stop and take a breath. Before you make one more visit or make one more plan, here are 5 things you absolutely must do for yourself (1-4 do every day):
- Get rest and exercise. Try not to compromise your sleep hours. An extra hour can make a big difference in your day. Also, try to carve out time to take a couple of 20-minute walks or other exercise. It will get your circulation going and help keep your stress levels lower.
- Eat healthy. It’s hard to do over the holidays, but make sure you tuck healthy items into your daily routine. Add salads, vegetables and fruit to your meals. Grab an apple before you walk out the door to a family gathering. The extra fiber will help counteract those rich Christmas cookies and candies.
- Carve out personal time. Even ten-minute “coffee breaks” here and there can slow down the frantic holiday pace and help you re-charge. Yoga and meditation are natural stress reducers. If a trusted friend or relative offers to stay you’re your elderly loved one for an hour or so, take them up on it!
- Develop a positive “mantra”. What we tell ourselves inside has much to do with how we view our world outside. Devise a half dozen positive thoughts and string a few of them together. Say them to yourself or out loud to help reduce anxiety and keep you calm. It really does work!
- Attend a support group. Memory care communities, such as Anthem, regularly conduct dementia support groups and welcome the public. Interacting with other caregivers can do wonders towards restoring your energy, spirits and self-confidence.
Nothing can totally neutralize the hectic, fast paced nature of the holidays. But by doing these five things regularly, you should find yourself better able to get into a healthier rhythm with the days ahead. You’ll feel better, look better and cope better. After all, you deserve to be at your best and enjoy the holidays. Because, before you know it, we’ll be in 2018!