Caring for a loved one with dementia is taxing, stressful and unpredictable. Perhaps the worst thing is not knowing what to expect. Will it be a good day, or will it be “one of those days?” There’s just no way of knowing what the day will bring.
In This Alzheimer’s Caregiving Article
Dealing with stress while caring for a loved one can shorten your life. Many times the caregiver succumbs to life-threatening illnesses. It’s imperative you take care of yourself, while caring for your loved one with Alzheimer’s.
A good schedule can definitely help. No, it won’t solve all the issues, but it is a foundation for each and every day. We all do better when we know what to expect. Your loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease will also find comfort in a good routine.
- Try to schedule meals around the same time each day.
- A little walk in the morning is a good idea for both of you. The bright light of daytime seems to help most Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease patients, as well as the exercise.
- Try to involve them in chores and activities that they still can do while they’re fresh each day. Perhaps folding clothes or putting away the silverware are some of the chores they can still achieve. Sweeping the porch, raking leaves, are other activities that can make them feel useful.
- Establish a rest period each day. Try to note when your loved one seems to get tired each day and plan for it. This would be a great time to have someone relieve you, so you can have some time for yourself.
- Post it! Notes can really help remind your loved one with Alzheimer’s what to expect. Get a big clock to set on the counter and write down what time meals are, and other activities, this way they know what their schedule is like for the day.
- Have a good bedtime routine. You might include talking to them about “the good old days” before bed. This is good for people with Alzheimer’s Disease as it may give them happy thoughts to sleep on. If they need help with hygiene, try brushing their hair, or giving them a little back massage. When they relax, it will help with your own stress as you can relax as well.
- Try to schedule appointments at a time when your loved one is at their best. Mornings work best for most seniors, especially for those with Alzheimer’s. But again, you know your loved one better than anyone else. What time of the day do they have the best coping skills?
- Remember throughout your day to try to encourage them to reminisce and talk about their experiences and stories when they were young. The far past is a very comforting place to older people, especially those with Alzheimer’s. Make it a light-hearted talk – “What was your favorite pet? How did you meet Dad, (or Mom)? Who was your best friend in school? Who taught you to drive?” Give them plenty of time to think about their answers.
Time out- for you! If you want to be a good caregiver for your loved one with Alzheimer’s, and not resent the time with your loved one, you must get away on a regular basis. Reach out to family members and make sure they know that this is a must for your own health and well-being. It will also make them appreciate what you do a little more, having walked in your shoes for a weekend, or so. If family members are just not available, or cooperative, find out what assisted-living communities offer respite care. A good in-home care provider can also help you on a regular basis.
My daughter, when she was a teenager, often “parent-sat” for a friend of ours. It was a good experience for both my daughter and our friend’s loved-one. Young people bring a lot of joy to older people. It also taught my daughter empathy for older people and those with memory problems. If you have a responsible teen in your life, you might give this a try. The teen will appreciate a little spending money and you’ll enjoy having some time to yourself to relax and recuperate from the stress of caregiving.
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About The Author: Karen Everett Watson is a Gerontologist and has over 10 years experience as a Journalist. Karen has spent 4 years in the senior community interviewing retirement community residents.
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