The person you care for depends on your care-giving skills to keep them well. There are things you can do that will not only make yourself sick, but might make your patient sick as well.
Caring for someone full-time with Alzheimer’s or Dementia can make you feel sad, discouraged, frustrated and even trapped. While you know that they can’t control their behavior due to brain damage, it can still get on your nerves to hear the same story over and over, or be asked the same question time and time again. Though you fully understand some easy ways to cope with their odd behavior, you might still become upset if they accuse you of stealing from their purse. If you are constantly putting aside your own needs in order to care for the sick person–your needs are being ignored.
If you aren’t taking time for yourself to rest, or visit with old friends, or just spend time alone, you will begin to feel anxious and sad and frustrated. We all need time to refresh ourselves, time away from our daily burdens. Without that time of renewal you may become irritable, tense, cranky and eventually feel resentful of the care you give to the patient.
Your patient may sense your fatigue and changed behavior toward them, then their attitude might change, too. They might become belligerent and irritable in a struggle to recapture your kind attention.
If you’re caring for your own family as well as an ailing patient, then you are certainly over-burdened and probably ignoring your own needs. To help your patient, you must take action and set goals to improve your own health emotionally and physically. That means including things in your daily schedule that are good for you.
A few things you can do for your own health:
- Get enough Rest – Sleep-time as well as time away from the patient. You may need to hire a helper for a few hours every day, or ask another family member sit with the patient occasionally–Though the patient may object, You must take care of yourself to be a healthy care-giver for them.
- Spend time with friends -If previous friends have lost touch since you became a full-time care-giver, join a support group. In a group you can share your fears, and sorrows and find great understanding since they have the same burdens. Your local Alzheimer’s Association can direct you to meetings in your local area.
- Spend quality time alone – Take a walk, or exercise, or a hobby (maybe one that you’ve set aside due to care-giving), something you truly enjoy.
- Find a “listening ear” for Care-Giver Stress - Everyone needs someone to talk to. You need friends, family, a support group, a counselor, or someone who can hear your fears and hopes and dreams and sorrows without judgment. –
My first “listening ear” was an on-line Alzheimer’s Support Group. Though we never saw each other, we shared everything and I felt like they were my sisters. Until I found that group, I thought I was losing my mind with all the strange behavior I’d seen from my mom.
- Give Yourself a Present – Everyone needs a lift every now and then. A magazine, a new dress, an ice cream sundae, order a pizza and skip cooking tonight.
Shhh, don’t tell anyone–but I will do just about anything if I tell myself the prize is a new purse.
Make yourself “feel” good because you deserve it, you’ve earned it. You need to be healthy both emotionally and physically for yourself, and for your patient too. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how well your patient responds when you’re rested and happy and smiling and a pure pleasure to be around. Renew yourself–and it will happen.