If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, you will want to consider several types of assistance to ensure their safety and your peace of mind. You will need medical support to care for the physical needs of your loved one, community support for services that help provide transportation, meals and other resources, professional caregiving support for the times when you cannot be with your loved one, and caregiving support for you. It may seem like a daunting list, but thankfully there are many support systems and community resources to support family caregivers. Here are some suggestions on how to get the support you need during dementia caregiving:
Realize that you will need help. Before you seek help, the first step is acknowledging that you need it. The old saying, “No man is an island,” is especially true for the men and women who are caregivers of a loved one with dementia. If you realize at the outset that you are going to need additional support, know that it will help to lighten the burden of caregiving and it may prove beneficial to your health. As your loved one continues to decline through the progressive stages of dementia he or she may need more acute care and that means that you are going to need more support as well. Knowing the resources that already exist in your community will help you know where to turn as you need increased support for your loved one.
Talk to your loved one’s physician. Ask if he or she has a list of services that are available in the community where your loved one lives. If he or she does not live in a community, but instead at home, call the case management department at the local hospital and ask for a list of services and support groups in the area.
Research services in the local community. Many organizations have specific programs to assist you in dementia caregiving. You can find the ones in your area by checking these sources of information:
- Eldercare Locator1, 1-800-677-1116 (toll-free)
- National Institute on Aging website
- Family Care Navigator2
- Your state government’s website, search for “elder care”, “senior care”, or “INSERT STATE NAME Executive Office of Elder Affairs.”
Home Care agencies can also be a great resource to rely on. Certified, professional home caregivers can take care of your loved one and keep you updated on their condition.
Find support for yourself as a caregiver. Just as important as finding support for your loved one is finding support for yourself as the primary family caregiver. Caregiving can take a toll on your health. Caregiver burnout is a real and not something to be ignored; we conducted a national study with 670 family caregivers to find out more about the emotional cost of dementia caregiving.
Here is what we discovered:
- Dementia caregivers were seven times more likely to experience physical, emotional and mental exhaustion from caregiving than those who do not care for loved ones with dementia.
- They were three times more likely to feel extreme stress from their caregiving responsibilities.
You can find support and assistance for yourself by looking for caregiver support groups at your local hospital or online. You can search for support groups in your local area through Family Caregiver Alliance.
Maintain your network of friends. Take time to visit with them and do things that you enjoy. If you spend time going out to lunch, dinner or coffee with people you enjoy you will reap the benefits of renewed energy and a positive outlook. Friends can be of great assistance and support while you are a dementia caregiver.
Eat well, sleep well and get exercise and fresh air whenever you can. Caregiving is a long-term commitment and keeping yourself healthy is essential.
You will need a lot of assistance during dementia caregiving. If you can access some of the tools suggested here it will help you to remain positive and healthy so you can deliver the quality of care you desire.