Excerpt from Caregiver’s Manual
By S. Somers/W. Thompson, Upper Island Geriatric Outreach Program
Introduction: Care For The Caregiver
Download or View the Caregiver’s Manual (pdf)
Caregivers often state the most important goal is to care for their loved one. However, sometimes they must be reminded to care for themselves, to remain physically and mentally able to care for others. Caregivers may experience feelings of frustration, discouragement and sadness. Sometimes a sense of being overburdened can create feelings of guilt or resentment. Fatigue is common and always a result of doing too much and not getting enough rest. Caregivers generally put aside their own need for rest, socializing and solitary moments.
Looking after someone with dementia is exhausting and you must take care of yourself by developing “survival strategies”. The following are some suggestions:
- Don’t keep the problem a secret. Tell those close to you so that you can share your feelings. Dementia is a distressing illness but not an uncommon one and people may understand and sympathize more than you expect.
- Consider joining a support group where you can meet other people who are in a similar situation; the support, education, and relaxation strategies offered can be helpful.
- When you feel things are getting on top of you slow down. Take a few deep breaths and tell yourself to let go of the tension. Concentrate only on today. Yesterday is over and what happens tomorrow will happen tomorrow.
- You are an individual with interests and needs of your own. Try to retain old acquaintances and hobbies and spend time doing activities you enjoy. This may mean taking time off from caring for your loved one. There are services available or respite care when you need time for yourself. Contact the Home and Community Care office to access services in your local community.
- Give yourself the occasional “gift”. A meal out, movie, indulge yourself with a new purchase: “You deserve it!”
- Protect yourself from situations you don’t think you can handle. Remember, it’s okay to say “no”.
Recognize the warning signs of stress and “burn out”.
- Do you feel sad or depressed?
- Do you feel you are functioning in the way you think you should?
- Are you lying awake at nights worrying?
- Are you losing weight?
- Do you constantly feel overwhelmed?
- Do you feel isolated?
- Do you feel alone with the situation with no options or solutions?
- Are you treating your stress with alcohol use?
- Do you need pills such as tranquillizers or sleeping pills to get through the day or night?
It is important to acknowledge these warning signs as they are an indication you are overburdened by your situation and need help to cope with your own needs as well as the needs of your loved one. Talk with your physician about services in the community that can assist you with these emotional responses.
You are only human and can only do so much. There may come a time where you can no longer provide the amount of care your loved one requires. There are residences in your community with staff available who are specially trained to care for your loved one.