Welcome to Alicia’s monthly advice column where she’ll provide tips on caring for a loved one with dementia. Alicia Seaver is the Director of Memory Care at Bridges® by EPOCH and is a certified memory impairment specialist. This month’s topic is caregiving resolutions.
As a busy caregiver tending to your loved one’s needs, it can be all too easy to let your own health and wellbeing take a backseat. However, with the fresh start of a new year, now is the perfect time to start taking better care of yourself. By committing to a few simple resolutions, you’ll ensure that both you and your loved one are well taken care of in the year ahead. Here are five caregiving resolutions I encourage you to adopt in 2018:
1. I will ask for help when I need it.
If you’re the sole caregiver to your loved one, it’s important to take steps to avoid burnout and stress. When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, or if you begin experiencing frequent feelings of sadness or isolation, resolve to reach out for help. Ask family members to share in some of your caregiving responsibilities — whether it’s offering to spend time with your loved one while you attend a personal appointment or delivering meals to your home, these gestures can go a long way. If your sad or negative feelings persist, don’t be ashamed to ask a medical professional for help.
2. I will take care of myself.
Self-care comes in many forms: hobbies, exercise, healthy eating, socialization and more. While it may seem like a lofty goal to make time for all of these different forms of self-care, there are small ways you can incorporate self-care throughout your day. Eating healthy foods will give you increased energy for caregiving, so fill your fridge and pantry with fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. If you dislike cooking or don’t have time, consider trying a prepared meal delivery service in your area, or developing a monthly meal delivery chart with family members and friends.
Take your loved one for daily walks so you can both enjoy fresh air and physical activity. After your loved one goes to bed, or before they wake up, spend time doing an activity you enjoy. Invite a friend or family member over for a weekly get-together. Scheduling self-care into your daily routine will ensure that you still have time to manage your caregiver duties.
3. I will find or build on a community that supports me and my loved one.
As a caregiver, you may feel isolated from friends and family not affected by dementia. However, it’s important to create a social circle of people who do understand you and your loved one. Join a support or meetup group to connect with people on a similar journey, and resolve to help your family and friends better understand how to interact with your loved one and best support you as a caregiver. The Bridges by EPOCH communities offer caregiver support groups every month, so find the community nearest you and check out upcoming event listings.
4. I will continue to look for new ways to connect with my loved one.
As your loved one’s dementia progresses, it will be important to find new ways to connect with each other. Though their memory may be waning, you can still share in nostalgic moments — flip through a family photo album, tell stories, listen to favorite songs or look at old postcards, letters and other mementos. Art, music, dancing and cooking can also be great ways to connect while giving both you and your loved one a fun creative outlet. If you’re feeling cooped up, an outing to a park, museum or restaurant can be a great option, as can seasonal activities such as pumpkin picking or taking a drive to see holiday lights in your area.
5. I will explore additional resources and opportunities for my loved one when the situation calls for it.
There may come a time when your loved one needs more care than you’re able to provide. Resolve to be honest with yourself should this time arise. If you merely need a break and time to yourself, adult day care, scheduled visits from a home care agency or a respite stay at a local senior living community are all viable options. However, should your loved one require more comprehensive care, consider touring nearby memory care assisted living communities. Keep in mind that these communities are designed specifically for people living with dementia, from the building itself to the care and programming offered. While it can be difficult to consider new options for your loved one, it’s important to remember that the right living situation and care can greatly increase their quality of life.
I wish you and your loved one a happy and healthy new year. As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions — I’d love to hear from you.