Make time for socialising: Dementia care is more of a marathon than a sprint. So it is vital that you pace yourself and that means caring for yourself. Don’t put your social life on hold – make time for friends, put plans in place that allow you regular, guilt-free, ‘me’ time each week. If necessary, arrange for someone to care for your loved one while you take this time out. You may have to rethink your social life a little, especially if your partner can no longer join you in social pursuits. Consider taking up a new hobby or joining a local community group, support group, night course or exercise class.
Though it can be very difficult and upsetting to leave a loved one in the care of someone else, especially if this person is not known to them at first, it is also very important to take time out for you. Make time in your daily and weekly routine for positive, nurturing activities such as meeting a friend for lunch, exercising, or reading a good book. Setting goals, and breaking them into smaller steps, may help you to put self-care intentions into practice. For instance, a goal of exercising more could be broken down into small, achievable steps such as going for a walk for 10 minutes three times a week.
Simple social contact with friends and family can be a great stress buster and seeking advice or help from them or from professionals can ease strain and help you to see things differently. It may even help you to find solutions to some of the more challenging aspects of caring for someone with dementia.
Join a support group: Caring can be lonely but it doesn’t have to be – joining a support group can be really helpful and enjoyable and you may even make new friends through your shared experience of caring. Remember, things that improve your sense of well-being will in turn improve the quality of life of the person that you are caring for. Making sure that your own emotional and social needs are met is sensible, not selfish.
Find the balance: Be realistic about what you can and can’t do as a carer. It can be tempting to want to do it all but that's simply not possible, especially as the disease progresses. From the outset, it is important to make sure that you find balance between the demands of caring and ensuring that you look after your own social and emotional needs as well as your physical, psychological and brain health. So, as soon as you possibly can, recruit friends and relatives to help with specific tasks, delegate what you can, and also identify what services are available to you and make maximum use of them.
Ask for and accept help from family and friends: Even if you find this difficult to do, it is very important to recognise your own limits and not to wait until you become overwhelmed. Make a list of ways in which others could help you – for instance, taking the person with dementia on a walk to give you a break, picking up some groceries, or attending an appointment with you. There are also many support services offered by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland; you can find out about the services and supports in your area on their website.
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