Caring for a person living with dementia is challenging. Becoming well informed about dementia is one important long-term strategy. Developing good coping skills and building a strong support network will be important ways caregivers can help handle the stresses of caring for a person living with dementia.
Alzheimer’s is the number one condition of dementia, others are Vascular Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia and Frontotemporal Lobe Dementia, to name a few. Remember there are 85-90 conditions of dementia. Rosalynn Carter once said, “There are only four kinds of people in this world. Those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.” Caregivers, what you do is very important, you are valued and loved by many.
Caregivers, one of the most important things you can do is take care of yourself. By taking care of yourself, you may avoid an illness, depression, frustration and sadness. Continue doing things you enjoy: keep in contact with friends and keep up with your hobbies.
Here are some tips on how to care for yourself:
• Eat healthy foods
• Exercise as often as you can
• Join a support group
• Make time for friends
• Take breaks during the day
• On a regular basis see your health care provider
• Ask for help when you need it.
These are simple tips; however if you make these tips a part of your life, the benefits will be amazing!
Being a caregiver is certainly a commitment, and you have to learn to balance this commitment. Recharging your batteries daily by eating right and getting adequate rest is a must. The weight of caregiving can be taxing and your energy level will decrease. Do not let things go too far, feeling tired may become the new normal and you will not recognize it is even happening and fatigue takes up residence. If you dread each day and dread waking up in the mornings it is time to take a respite. Respite is simply a time out. As a caregiver you tend to forget about your own needs. Physical manifestations may occur with the stress that is so present in the life of the caregiver. Stress may be the culprit of increased muscle tension, especially in your back, shoulders and neck, headaches, digestive issues, weight loss or gain, high blood pressure and skin disorders. Self care is the ability to take care of your own needs, this will be a benefit for your loved one.
Caregivers, do not forget about your spiritual needs. Going to church and being a part of a faith community will help you cope better as a caregiver. When your spiritual needs are met, you will find a sense of peace and balance. Find something each day that will lift you up. Prayer, meditation and listening to spiritual music are good ways to feel uplifted.
Keep your sense of humor, too. Laughter can actually release chemicals in your body that will help you feel better. Try finding humor in difficult situations and spend time with friends that make you laugh. Watch a funny movie or an old episode of “I Love Lucy” or “The Andy Griffin Show” or “Sanford and Son”. Laughter is a good way to reduce stress. Do not lose your sense of humor.
Next week we will talk more about caregivers. Keep in touch, I am planning a “Laughter Therapy” workshop soon, and I do not want you to miss it! Hope you all have a “Best Day Ever”.
Lesia Henderson is a Positive Approach to Care Independent Trainer and Sampson County Department of Aging Family Caregiver Support Specialist.