Self Care when caregiving with a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
I don’t need to tell you about the difficulties and challenges you experience when caring for your loved on. Do not ignore the emotional, physical and social upheaval that you are experiencing. Relationships change due to the nature of dementia and the aim of Finding the Light is to help support you in this. I cannot stress the importance of caring for yourself enough, in order for you to be able to care. If you become stressed, start to struggle and feel isolated, you won’t be able to maintain this. There is a chance that you are not getting your needs met and at some point you may feel resentful about this and guilty for having these feelings. So here are a few pointers:
Firstly, slow down, stand back
and re connect with who you are, realise your amazing self. Make sure you speak with others and don’t be too proud or embarrassed to ask for help, engage other people in your life that can help and support you. Speak to your doctor and ask what help is available, contact local support groups, they may be able to offer a befriending service or some day care activities for your loved one.
I would also recommend trying some short frequent relaxation activities such as the one below:
Learn to Be in the moment sit quietly for 5 to10 minutes and think of a word, prayer or mantra you can focus on. Let the word mean how you want to feel, so for instance you may quietly repeat to yourself words such as Calm, Peace, Bliss, Breathe, Love. You may wish to set the alarm so that you do sit for the full time and try and create a special space in the home for you to do this. If your partner won’t leave your side, repeat the words out loud and gently, they may feel the vibration and sound which may have a calming effect with them. It may not work the first time around but keep trying.Try and rest when your partner does, even ten minutes of sitting still, closing your eyes, taking slow deep breaths and repeating your word can help recharge the batteries.
For 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night, send yourself loving kindness messages. Sit in a quiet place, where you will not be disturbed, turn off all distractions. Close your eyes and say to yourself
May I feel happy
May I feel joyful
May I feel blessed
May I feel well
May I feel love
May I feel valued
Feel what you are saying. Note how you feel afterwards.
You may be feeling a little sceptical when reading this but please try it, if you can stay calm then it will help you both and your home will feel calmer too. Don’t forget a person who has dementia needs to feel in a safe and calm place and this will help you both.
Also on a practical level make sure that you are eating and drinking. When we don’t eat we can become irritable and find it harder to cope, little and often may work better for you.
Dementia and Loss
Over time you will be feeling a sense of loss – for the life and relationships you had before dementia. You will be feeling multiple losses and experience grief – here Dr John Wilson offers expert support Coping with Loss
For more suggestions read chapter 11, Caring for the Caregiver, Quick and easy ways to nurture and replenish yourself, in Finding the Light in Dementia, a Guide For Families, Friends and Caregivers