Being a caregiver to your loved one is a vital aspect to their well-being, but it can be exhausting, overwhelming, and sometimes thankless. Your loved one may lash out at you and make it difficult by refusing to comply with what needs to be done. Your loved one may see you as the person who has taken away his or her freedom and life choices. Most people do not give up making their own decisions easily. But there are things you can do to keep a positive perspective and lower your stress level.
1. One of the most important things is to take a breath and realize you cannot do it all. It is normal for your loved one to resent their caregiver from time to time as it is also normal for the caregiver to resent the situation. Remember to be patient and respectful.
2. Take a break from caregiving without feeling guilty for taking time for yourself. Find someone to stay with your loved one while you do things you enjoy. Pamper yourself now and then. It will do both of you good.
3. Realize your loved one may not be the same person you used to know. Illness and or dementia can change the person. Give him or her permission to not be the same, to forget, and to do things which do not make sense.
4. Stay active and social. This will allow you to interact with others who may be in a similar situation. They may have suggestions or solutions which will help with your responsibilities.
5. Eat healthy and drink plenty of water. Exercise as much as possible. Many people find they neglect their own health when they become caregivers. Allowing yourself to be mentally and physically sharp is important as your tasks may increase.
6. If you are not a full time caregiver, visit and call regularly. If possible, plan a family dinner weekly. Your loved one will not feel as isolated and will have something to look forward to.
7. Try to keep your loved one clean and well-groomed. Helping your loved one look good will help his or her mood. Be honest with yourself about your capabilities and limitations. This will be beneficial to you and your loved one and will allow you to have peace as you make decisions.
8. Congratulate yourself for making a positive difference in your loved one’s life. Remind yourself of the good you are doing.
9. You may feel incapable at times; you may feel that it is somehow your fault that your loved one is declining despite your best efforts, when in reality it is the progression of the disease. Allow yourself to accept help whenever possible. Many resources are available to you.
10. Your loved one may not seem to be the same person you once knew and enjoyed, but he or she is still the same person inside. From time to time, you will see the soul of your loved one shine through. Rejoice and show them your unconditional love.
Thank you to our friends at Seniors Helping Seniors services for sharing this informative article.
Old photographs serve as a good tool to trigger memories from long ago.
For many residents of assisted living or seniors at home with caregivers, reminiscence therapy has proven to be a beneficial activity on many levels. Reminiscence therapy, recalling events from the past using the senses–objects to touch and hold, smell, sound, taste–can range from the simple act of conversation in your loved one’s home, to a certified therapist using props and clinical methods to help an Alzheimer’s patient retrieve long-ago memories.
The benefits of reminiscence therapy in assisted living facilities or at home with a caregiver can be long-reaching. Elders often become isolated from their identities as their memories begin to falter, and as the day-to-day issues of living overwhelm the past. Establishing a way to connect with long-ago memories can help re-tie that rope to familiarity. Other benefits include:
Increased ability to communicate. Often, when you watch someone re-tell a story, you watch them come alive with memory and emotion. Research has shown new pathways in the brain form as a patient remembers the past.
Provide relief from boredom, a distraction from day-to-day problems.
Alleviate symptoms of depression and helps cope with aging.
Reestablish life meaning for a person through connection to the past and reassert that person’s feeling of importance.
Increased self worth and sense of belonging in the world.
Preserve stories and memories for future generations.
Helping Your Elder Recall Memories from the Past
Many who suffer from Alzheimer’s or have other memory loss issues (read about “what causes memory loss”) can’t remember simple things from the recent past, like what they had for breakfast, who came to visit the other day or the name of their granddaughter’s husband. But memories from early childhood and young adulthood may come readily with a little prompting. Methods to get your loved one talking include storytelling–you start a known family story and prompt him or her to finish the story–or simply start by asking questions. You can take 15 minutes out of your day, or more formally, record the memories or conversations on a digital camera or voice recorder. Here are some good conversation starters:
The cost of items in the 1950s — for example, eggs were $0.79 a dozen, a Chevrolet Corvette was $3,000 and Saturday matinee movie tickets ran between ten or 20 cents. (source Moby Tickets)
What was your favorite TV show or movie from the past?
Where were you when…? When Kennedy was assassinated, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, when the Russians launched Sputnik.
What was your first job?
Talk about your favorite trip or travels.
Find a knick-knack, old photograph or other item in the attic or off the shelf and ask about its history.
Other tools include scrapbooking software that allow you to scan and arrange photos into memory books to prompt discussion, books about memorable events in history and the Senior Moments Game, a board game that helps–in a fun way–to prompt memories.
Caregiver Benefits of Reminiscence Therapy
You may have heard the story over and over, and your first thought is to tune it out. However, tuning in to the story, making eye contact, and asking questions brings about true, engaged communication with your loved one when other communication is difficult. Using the prompts, you may discover a new story, and you may see your mom or dad, aunt or friend in a new light. And regardless of the repetition, we connect with a greater humanity when we share stories.
Real life story by Tim Verville, Hospice of Southwest Ohio
“My mother suffered from Alzheimer’s and I found it difficult to communicate with her as it appeared she was living in a different time. I faced the challenge of determining my mother’s mental age. I put together a photo album starting with the earliest family pictures followed by latest pictures at the back. I then started at the back of the album until she responded to my 4th grade class picture
It was amazing. As soon as she saw the class picture she pointed at me and said that is my son Timmy. I then knew about where she what age she perceived herself in her mind.
What a wonderful experience”