New Starts for Dementia Caregivers
The day of a typical, non-caregiver adult is usually fairly routine - similar daily work hours, same daily work place with the same co-workers, and often, the same general type of work each day. Of course, there are exceptions to this, such as the emergency room doctor who works varied shifts with different patients with different problems each time he or she works.
Another example of people who have atypical days are dementia caregivers. Each day can be very different. Even each hour can vary. Facing each day by 'starting new' can be a very important way for caregivers to cope with the challenges they face. Here are 5 ways that dementia caregivers can start new, helping to feel more confident and less stressed:
- Start each day with a stolen treat or moment. Flavored coffee you enjoy; playing your favorite music; taking in a few breaths of fresh air or the outside view through the window; reading a couple pages of a book or magazine; even just a few body stretches - it is amazing how much body tension you can release through stretching! A quick moment to honor yourself in this way can help give you the strength you need for the day.
- Clear your mind of the past hours. The person with dementia may have been very anxious the night before, pacing and complaining of missing things. It may have taken many frustrating attempts to soothe their worries. But dementia symptoms can change quickly, and sometimes for the better. Do not carry the stress of your last frustrating moment to the moment or day you are now in, as the person might now be in a much better mood. You can help set the tone of now, by letting the previous encounters go.
- Consider your new relationship and look for a positive. Your relationshipmay have had a role reversal, such as a daughter caring for a mom with dementia.Or it may no longer be the partnership relationship of a couple, but rather one spouse making all the decisions. It is surely not a type of relationship you had planned. But there is still a relationship, albeit different. Look for the positive in this new relationship, even one thing. Does your former business-like husband now laugh out loud at cartoons on tv? Does your mom now like your dog to visit when before she thought dogs were messy and a nuisance? Find something positive in your new relationship and embrace it.
- Look for a new activity the person with dementia enjoys. Continuing to do things and continuing to have purpose is so important for patients with dementia. Of course, what the person does will change over time as the person's abilities change. But there are things the person with dementia can do or a be a part of, at all stages of the disease. Read here to learn how to find the right activities for different stages.
- Take a new breath. Literally. Caregivers in general are often not good at caring for their own health and well-being. Dementia caregivers can be the worst. You absolutely need to take time to breathe and let some of your worries, sadness, anger, frustration, etc. go. Learn a few yoga poses; talk to a supportive friend, clergy member, or support group; take a walk; write in a journal; scream at the top of your lungs or laugh until you cry. Whatever it is that helps you "breathe" a bit, make sure it is a part of each of your new days in caregiving.
Starting new can bring benefit to both the caregiver and patient, as they steer along the path of dementia. Share with us if you have other ideas for 'starting new' or if the ideas in this article helped you or share this article with others by clicking on the buttons to the right for Facebook, sending via email, etc.