My dad Chris has dementia and was diagnosed almost ten years ago. He currently lives in a residential care home that keeps him fed, warm and safe.
For all the new caregivers out there, here are my 5 tips for you:
Educate yourself and others – We attended wonderful workshops and support groups run by Alzheimers New Zealand. This really helped to know what was to come, and the support groups give you a place to go where people really ‘get it’.
Tell everyone – Let other people know what’s going on – friends, family, your workplace, the shop down the road – so they can look out for you and the person if they are lost or confused. Awareness and understanding is critical. Too many caregivers take on too much for far too long. Let others in so they can help. Don’t hold it like a secret.
Let people know how they can help – Sometimes we wish people were mind-readers, but it’s much easier if you let others know how best they can support you. For example, by coming along with you to a group or bringing over a hot meal for you all to share.
Make time for yourself – Caregivers are real life superheroes. They just do things silently, mostly on their own (or with little support). It’s really important to make some time for yourself and set boundaries around that. That might mean asking for some help caring for the person, keeping them company, or asking for some help with jobs around the house. Treat yourself, it’s probably overdue!
Be kind to yourself – Carers are remarkably tough on themselves. This is not something you can do ‘right’ or ‘perfect’. It’s about getting through the day and celebrating the good times. So if you made it through a tough day, that’s a win – it doesn’t matter if the house is a mess! Try not to feel guilty for any thoughts and feelings, and talk to people who make you feel loved and supported.
As my Dad would say, “Just do your best – that’s all any of us can do.”
My full story and more can be found at www.daditsliam.com