When you’re the carer for someone who has dementia, it can sometimes feel like your whole world revolves around them.
When you’re also related to or married to the person you’re caring for, this is perhaps even more true.
Naturally, you want them to have the best life possible, especially given the hardships they’re going through – but that sometime means sacrificing your own wellbeing for their sake.
Whilst it’s important to sometimes put others’ needs ahead of your own, it’s also important to remember that in order to be able to look after someone else, you first need to look after yourself. Being a carer can be incredibly emotionally draining work – sometimes you just need to step back and have a bit of a breather, because the last thing you want to do is burn out!
Today we’re going to look at some of the steps we can all take to ensure we’re looking after both ourselves and our charges.
One of the scariest things about dementia is that it’s very difficult to predict how someone is going to be affected by it – there are so many possible ways it can manifest, and it’s different for everyone. Whilst you can’t know exactly what to expect, you can give yourself some idea of the possible issues you and the person you are caring for will face and arm yourself with the tools to deal with those issues.
There are a number of ways of boosting your knowledge and upskilling, including Dementia Auckland’s carer education programme. By tackling dementia alongside a number of other people who are going through similar experiences to you, you’ll be able to gain not only great information and skills, but also the knowledge that you’re not alone.
Many of the symptoms of dementia can be surprising. Through learning about these symptoms you can prepare yourself for what’s to come, and make sure that you have the skills and knowledge to deal with any challenges you may face.
Building a community of support
As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved. When you’re dealing with a tough situation, one of the best ways of getting through it is by amassing the support of the people around you.
Support can come in many forms – whether it’s from your own backyard or from expanding your roots and taking part in new workshops or hobbies. Many people can try to hide that they or their loved ones are battling with dementia, but this secrecy only isolates you from the rest of the world. If you have family or friends you can confide in and bring into your inner circle then so much weight will be lifted off you.
If you’d rather talk with someone who’s a bit more removed from your life, then support groups are an invaluable resource. Talking with people who are on the same journey as you can give you an expectation of what’s to come; sometimes it’s important to chat with people that you know have been in your shoes and can empathise with your situation.
Taking time for yourself
At the end of the day, one of the best de-stressors is simply taking a bit of time to relax and remove yourself from the world of being a carer. It’s important to not give up your own life in order to help someone else out, because you’re not going to be able to do much caring if you end up completely devoid of energy from being ‘on’ all the time! Whether it’s catching up with friends, going for a walk or sitting down and reading a good book, sometimes you need to try to operate in a world without dementia.
Being a carer is an amazing job in many ways. It can be incredibly rewarding but is also painfully challenging – the best of times and the worst of times.
Many local organisations across New Zealand can help provide support, education, information and related services directly to members of the community who are caring for people living with dementia.