Being a carer is one of the most difficult yet rewarding jobs a person can do. At times, however, it might seem like an uphill struggle and that the person you are caring for doesn’t understand what you are doing for them. While every situation is different and your challenges are unique to you and your family, there are a few situations that most carers will be able to relate to.
1. Communicating with your loved one
Dementia can be frustrating for the person living with it. They can’t always remember the words they want to say and so they begin to lose confidence in their ability to participate in a conversation. This is challenging for you as the carer, because you have to find ways to adapt your communication to suit their needs and help them feel involved. Giving people time, speaking slowly and carefully and using gestures can ease the path of communication.
2. Feeling that your care is not appreciated
When your loved one is aware that things aren’t as easy as they used to be, they may have difficulties adapting to being cared for. It’s not that you are not doing a great job, but wanting to be independent is something we can all relate to. Help your loved one to maintain their independence as much as possible as this is good for their confidence.
3. Competing priorities
As a carer, you are not just looking after one person. Perhaps you have small children, and you are having a hard time attending to your other relationships. Life places so many demands, even on those with no-one to care for, that you can feel that you are letting something drop. Be kind to yourself and accept your limitations. Decide on what is important, ensure you deliver on those tasks, and talk to your family about the pressure you feel. Perhaps they can lend a hand.
It’s part of the human condition to be averse to change, but change is part of the process when you are caring for someone with dementia. Not only do you have to accept the progression of the symptoms, but also how you care for someone will naturally need to adapt. Once you accept that change is inevitable, you will be able to appreciate the here and now, and the memories you can still make with the person in your care.
5. The emotional rollercoaster
When your family member is first diagnosed with dementia, right through the different stages of looking after the person, you will feel a raft of emotions. These feelings might be frustration, a sense of injustice, anger, sadness, guilt and depression. Other feelings like inadequacy and a lack of love may surface too. Don’t beat yourself up about these. Accept you feel what you feel, but also understand that other carers know what this is like, and you are not a bad person for having negative thoughts about the situation you find yourself in. Be honest, seek out support and discuss these sentiments with someone you trust. Bottling it up will only make it worse.
Caring for a relative is not easy, and the most important takeaway is to remember you are also a person with needs that have to be addressed. Make time for yourself outside of being a carer and you will find these challenges a little easier to surmount.