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Let’s talk about dementia – and how to support caregivers

September is World Alzheimer’s Month. The goal of this campaign is to raise awareness and challenge stigma. Alzheimer’s is a devastating illness that dramatically impacts not only the person who is diagnosed, but their family as well. Many of our clients have a loved one with dementia and our heart goes out to all of them.

In this blog post we aim to shed light on some of the challenges that family caregivers face on a daily basis with the hope of inspiring you to reach out to any caregivers you know and offer your support.

Loved one is losing interest in events – and the caregiver becomes isolated

The person with dementia may, for a variety of reasons, refrain from attending social functions. They might be tired, find groups overwhelming, or simply don’t have a desire to attend the event (even if they would have in the past). In any case, the caregiver may be unable to leave the person with dementia home alone. This means that the caregiver’s relationships start to suffer, they miss out on fun activities that would help them unwind, and they struggle with guilt if they decide to go solo.

How can you help? Ask how you can spend time together on their terms. Call and check in. Put the effort in so the relationship doesn’t fade away and they don’t feel so alone.

Loved one has very high needs – and the caregiver has no time for themselves

It is a LOT of work caring for someone with dementia, particularly if they live at home and the disease is advanced. If the caregiver is a guardian or acting under a power of attorney, they may have legal obligations in addition to caregiver responsibilities. Their “free time” may be filled with helping their loved one eat, shower and change; paperwork; housework; navigating potentially dangerous situations; monitoring medication; changing diapers; researching long-term care homes; paying bills; searching for missing objects; negotiating with their loved one; and much more.

How can you help? Ask what the caregiver can delegate. From picking up something at the drug store, to performing research, you can likely lend a helping hand. And be sure to remind the caregiver of the importance of self-care - and ask what you can do to create the space in their life for it to actually happen.

Loved one might be aggressive or mean – and the caregiver is on the receiving end

In some cases, a person with dementia might become physically or verbally abusive. This means the caregiver might face resistance when they provide care, might be unable to take the person out of the house, and might even sustain injuries. They may be accused of stealing or other wrongdoing. They may be called names. Being on the receiving end of physical assaults or cruel comments is obviously very difficult (not to mention that their hard work may be completely unappreciated).

How can you help? Be a good listener. Let the caregiver vent and bounce things off you. If the behavior is becoming too difficult to manage, the caregiver might be contemplating big decisions like whether to try medication or apply for long-term care. And there is a good chance they feel confused, scared, guilty or conflicted. You don’t have to be an expert to listen and provide validation. It can mean the world.

 

 

 

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