When a person first becomes a family caregiver to a senior parent with a cognitive impairment, like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it can be frightening, overwhelming, and frustrating. You may wonder where to start and whether you’re doing things correctly. If you’re new to being a caregiver to someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, below are some tips to get you started:
Understand You’re Not Alone
The Family Caregiver Alliance says there are around 15.7 million people in the United States acting as family caregivers to someone with Alzheimer’s disease. That means that you may even know someone who is in your shoes or who has been in the past. Don’t be afraid to tell people about your caregiving journey—you just might find people who volunteer to help or who can offer valuable advice because they’ve been there, too. If you’re not comfortable talking to family and friends about it, you may find a caregiver support group useful. There may be a live group in your community, or you can find a virtual group to join on the Internet.
Recognize and Manage Your Frustration
First, it’s okay for you to feel frustrated about being a caregiver sometimes. It’s a hard job, and the role reversal from being your parent’s child to having to look after your parent is disconcerting, to say the least. However, you need to manage your stress and frustration, or it will affect your physical health and ability to be an effective caregiver. When you feel yourself getting frustrated, take a moment to get your feelings in check. Breathe deeply and step away from the situation until you feel calmer. And, if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. If you don’t have family members or friends that can help, consider contacting a home care agency to hire a professional caregiver to assist.
Know That You Cannot Be Perfect
You are human, and humans make mistakes. You will not be the perfect caregiver because there is no such thing. Of course, you should always do your best, but you should also forgive yourself when things don’t go as planned. Instead of dwelling on your mistakes, think about the things that have gone well. Focus on successes like having made your parent smile or a healthy lunch enjoyed together.
Don’t Try to Do Too Much
When a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is new, it can be tempting to want to handle everything for your parent. Resist the urge. Allow your parent to do as much as they can for as long as they can. Your job as a caregiver in the early stages is to keep them safe and plan for the future, not to wear yourself thin doing tasks your parent is still capable of doing on their own.
IF YOU OR AN AGING LOVED-ONE ARE CONSIDERING CAREGIVERS IN ZEBULON, NC, PLEASE CONTACT THE CARING STAFF AT SENIORS HELPING SENIORS TODAY. CALL (919) 761-5346.
Kathy is a Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP) who is active in several other senior related organizations, including Alzheimer’s State Champion program, Friends of the Northern Wake Senior Center board member, Ambassador for the Rolesville Chamber of Commerce, Aging Life Care Association (ALCA), Health Affairs Round Table (HART), and Senior Information Networking Group (SING).