Caring for someone with dementia can be very rewarding. It can also be difficult, exhausting, lonely, and at times, overwhelming.
The physical and mental demands of caring for someone with dementia can take its toll on your own health and wellbeing. If you are worn down, in mind and/or body, caring will become even more difficult and you may not be able to continue balancing your own needs with those of your family/ whānau and the person with dementia.
Over time you will build resilience to cope with the strain of being a carer of someone with dementia. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience.
Here are some tips to help build resilience.
Take care of yourself
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet: Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, avoid large amounts of highly processed or high calorie food, and drink alcohol only in moderation.
- Try to get enough rest: If your sleep is disturbed at night, sleep during the day whenever you can.
- Keep in touch with family and friends: You deserve and need a social life outside your carer role.
- Find ways to relax: Whether that’s spending time in prayer, meditation, self reflection or counselling, do what you can to relax, get perspective, and boost your energy and morale.
- Exercise: Walking is great stress relief, while even gardening can lift your mood and relieve nervous tension (these activities can also be good for someone with dementia)
- Stay positive: Your attitude makes a difference to the way you feel so try to focus on the good things, making every day count. Also, focus on the things the person with dementia can still do, rather than the things they can’t.
- Take each day one step at a time: Don’t worry about what happened yesterday because you can’t change it, and don’t stress about what you need to do tomorrow as you’ll deal with that when it comes. Just focus on what you need to do right now.
Managing your feelings
You may experience a range of very different and often extreme feelings. This is particularly difficult because, as dementia gradually causes the person’s abilities and personality to change, the nature of your relationship will also change.
There is no simple way to deal with these feelings but it may help to know that the complex and changeable emotions you feel are completely normal.
Some of the most common feelings experienced by families and whānau members who support a person with dementia may include guilt, grief, loss and anger.
- Be kind to yourself: Be patient with your feelings. Find a balance between the happy and sad person, the angry and peaceful, the guilty and the glad self.
- Have patience with yourself: Life is changing and it will never be the same. You’re having to learn to deal with a lot of new situations and no-one is perfect.
For more advice and support contact Carers NZ or your local Alzheimers organisation on 0800 004 001.
Booklet: Supporting a person with dementia
A guide for family/whānau and friends
This booklet gives you information and tips on helping a person with dementia with their personal care, such as washing and dressing, nutrition, sleeping and travelling, as well as communication and ideas for meaningful activities and ways you can look after yourself – which is very important, too.