3 Tips for the Caregiver of Someone with Dementia

Editor’s note: November is National Family Caregivers Month.  This year’s theme is “Take Care to Give Care,” which urges caregivers to pay attention to their own physical and mental wellness.

 

Care Dimensions social worker Susan Haas and hospice patient

Care Dimensions social worker Susan Haas visits with a hospice patient.

Caring for a loved one with dementia presents a host of challenges for the caregiver, which may include sleep deprivation, frustration, anxiety, and/or depression. Perhaps the most difficult challenge is the social isolation that can occur when the person with dementia is not able to go out as often due to functional decline.

 

Over time, the demands of 24/7 care become harder for the caregiver of the person with dementia.

 

The caregiver’s world becomes smaller when it’s not safe to leave the loved one alone.  Simple activities such as visiting friends, going to the movies, or taking a relaxing walk may no longer be possible, especially if there are no funds to hire a companion for a brief period. Long-time friends seem to fall away. It becomes difficult for friends to see someone they knew lose memory and the ability to socialize as they once did.

 

Here are three ways that caregivers can care for themselves:

  1. When friends ask what they can do for you, have a list ready. At the top of your list should be having the friend stay with your loved one while you go to a support group. Provide your adult sitter with ideas about things that your loved one likes to do, even if it is only watching his or her favorite TV show.
  2. Connect with others whose loved ones with dementia seem to be at the same functional level. Use the support group to form mutually beneficial relationships.
    • – See if you can get together at each other’s homes with your loved ones present. Both families benefit from this social interaction. You and the other caregiver will have time to talk and share experiences, while the persons with dementia will have some beneficial social stimulation.
    • – The new relationship can provide you with additional support – perhaps you and your new friend can even text or call each other when things get tough.
  3. When it is time for hospice, use our family support resources. Care Dimensions offers support for the whole family – including trained volunteers who can visit or provide respite – once their loved one is on hospice service. We often hear that our families do not feel so alone, as caregivers can call us anytime day or night if they have questions or need support.

 

Feeling overwhelmed as you try to manage your loved one’s care? Care Dimensions offers a drop-in caregiver support group 10:30 – 11:30 a.m., typically on the second Monday of the month, at the Bertolon Center for Grief and Healing, 78 Liberty Street, Danvers, MA. Contact Patrice DePasquale, 978-223-9726, or PDePasquale@CareDimensions.org.

Susan Haas has been a social worker in nursing homes for 34 years. She has worked with Care Dimensions for the past four years, with a specialty in dementia care.

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