Being a primary caregiver for an individual with dementia or Alzheimer's can be difficult work. Many caregivers often feel overwhelmed, or frustrated because their own life has been put on hold to care for their loved one. However, with some simple tips, caregivers can stay healthy, maintain good self-esteem and seek help and support when they need it.
“In a survey of over 800 caregivers 48% noted their biggest daily challenge was finding enough time for themselves” (www.strengthforcaring.com)
Eat properly and regularly
Keep healthy foods and snacks on hand. Drink plenty of water. Freeze extra food for quick meals. Designate specific nights of the week where others provide a meal for your loved one.
Exercise a little every day
Take a short walk, change your scenery and get some fresh air. If not possible, use a treadmill, and/or do exercises indoors.
Get adequate restful sleep
Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night even though it may be interrupted. Rest when your care recipient sleeps.Postpone houseworkand nap when necessary.
Schedule time out for yourself everyday
Use relaxation or stress management techniques such as meditation and yoga. Write in a journal. Read an inspirational book. Find and schedule dementia respite care so you can take a break and nurture yourself.
Pay attention to your feelings and emotions
Seek support from friends and family, join a support group, get counseling if necessary and do not be hesitant to ask for help.
Attend church, synagogue or other spiritual gathering place. Listen to inspirational programs, books on tape, sermons and messages. Pray for patience, guidance and wisdom.
Stay active with friends and family
When it is hard to get out, invite people over. Enjoy the company of others and encourage them to take an active interest in both you and your loved ones life.
Subscribe to supportive magazines and websites
Read articles related to Caregiving
‘Today’s Caregiver’, ‘Caring Today’ and www.caregiver.org can be a good source of information. Ask others for suggestions on good books and poems.
Tap into community and national resources for support
The Family Caregiver Alliance and The National Family Caregiver’s Association are good starting places.
Ask for help
Usually others want to help but must be told what to do. Let them pick up a prescription and/or sit with your care recipient while you exercise, grab a quick nap, participate in a hobby or attend a support group meeting. Remember no one is perfect and asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
*Tips adapted from author LeAnn Thieman and Family Caregiver Alliance (2004). Ten Real Life Strategies for Dementia Caregiving. Found at www.caregiver.org and www.LeAnnThieman.com.