Watching a loved one suffer is a mentally and emotionally daunting task. The diagnosis of illness within one’s close circle also takes a toll on the well-being of the people taking care of them. The physical and emotional trauma faced by the patients also negatively affects the caregivers. Being constantly on the toes to provide comfort and ease, the people taking care of Alzheimer’s patients invest a lot of their time and effort in creating a safe space for their loved ones. Hence, identifying and catering to the needs of the caregivers is as crucial as helping out the people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s or dementia affects a person’s ability to carry out basic day to day tasks. Seeing your loved ones face difficulty performing even the simplest of daily activities, and for it to only worsen, can be psychologically draining. Also, the progression of the disease can make it difficult for the patients to recognize and appreciate the efforts of the caregiver making it, at times, a thankless job. This, in turn, can result in frustrated and anxious caregivers. Mentally stressed and anxious helpers can show signs of:
- Lack of patience
- Unhealthy eating habits
- Social withdrawal, etc.
These signs can undermine the positive affects the process of providing support needs to be having on the patients. For the caregivers to keep providing quality care, their mental health and well-being are equally important!
We have outlined a few ways caregivers can make sure they invest in their emotional and mental well-being as well.
- Staying organized
Caregiving isn’t a one-time duty; it is a series of tasks that need to be performed at different hours of the day/night. Keeping a journal or a to-do notebook of the tasks to be done is the first thing caregivers need to do to make their job a little easier! It can relieve the caregiver’s mind off the stress of keeping mental notes/reminders of what needs to be done. Apply strategies that give direction to the thought process and sharpen a person’s focus. This will also, in turn, enhance the attention spans of the caregivers and help them cope up with burden.
- Putting yourself in their shoes
Alzheimer’s patients go through the painful process of forgetting even the most trivial things. As the disease advances, communication toughens since forgetfulness affects their speech too. Empathizing with the pain they face daily to merely remember what words to speak to convey their message, can help as a way to counter the negative emotions. Maintaining patience and empathy is the key in such situations. Thinking yourself as to be in their shoes and realizing the difficulty this brings to the patients can help maintain a level of empathy in the caregivers while taking care of such patients. Communicate without showing frustration and in shorter sentences that might be easier to comprehend. Speak slowly and using similar phrases as much as possible to make it easier for them to grasp.
- Practicing relaxing techniques
Relaxation techniques, such as yoga and meditation are known to be highly effective when it comes to relieving stress. For starters, breathing deeply in difficult situations lowers stress levels and sends signals to the brain to calm down and relax. In moments of anxiety or panic, trying to focus on breathing deeply is known to soothe anxiety levels. Practice it.
Yoga/exercise reduces muscle tension and relaxes the mind and body. Setting a daily work routine out can help maintain a peaceful mind. Major signs of depressive episodes are impulsive unhealthy eating and insomnia. Eating healthy and keeping a proper sleep schedule, hence, helps in lowering stress levels. Keeping stress under controlled levels through workouts and healthy living will help in managing emotions while dealing with Alzheimer’s patients.
- Taking time out to reflect and sort your thoughts
Taking care of patients with dementia is a hectic and thankless job. For one to sail positively through the caregiving journey, one must make sure that they have only optimistic thoughts for this process. Taking time out for self-reflection is vital and can help to decipher your mental state. Make sure to rule out all negative feedbacks/affirmations as null and void and instead present your mind with only positive thoughts. Take this time of self-reflection to appreciate yourself for the good you do while being on this journey of caregiving. This will produce a sense of thankfulness and will cancel out any negativities building up inside, as a result, keeping the emotions in check.
- Staying socially active
Caregivers, while being involved with their duties, might skip or avoid social gatherings considering it to be a waste of time as opposed to their duties of caregiving. This social withdrawal can gradually create feelings of frustration or depression. Having healthy social interactions is a sign of a happy human! Take time out to go out and attend social gatherings.
- Ask for help
People in need of help should never shy from asking for it. Involving others in the process of caregiving can ease off the excess burden if any. Having too much on one’s plate can create frustration; hence, involving close family/relatives or other community members to help around can be relieving. Excessively burdening oneself, even with the good things one does, can have negative impacts rather than positive ones.
- Join a support group
Becoming a part of support groups might help caregivers in relating the problems/difficulties they face on job with people having similar experiences. Being able to communicate and share your feelings with people in similar situations can be curative. Such groups can create a sense of being understood and can alleviate any feelings of isolation that the caregiver might feel during this journey.
Managing emotions and showing patience while dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia patients is very essential. For that to happen, caregivers need to make sure that their own mental and physical well-being is in check and they are themselves responsible for their contentment.