A New Year for the Caregivers
A Help Wanted Ad: Wanted: A person willing to work long and unpredictable hours in the home, including the middle of the night. Patience, endurance, and ability to manage challenging personalities essential. Sense of humor preferred, but not required. Vacations and days off to be negotiated, but not assured. Hourly rate is Zero.
This ad depicts the work many family members take on when caring for a parent or spouse with dementia. The work is hard and isolating, and most friends and other family members do not appreciate how difficult it can be.
In honor of all those who are caring for their loved ones at home, I put together the following list of tips, with links to blogs that discuss them more fully. I wish all caregivers a new year whose challenges are balanced by moments of joy, personal fulfillment and the support and appreciation of others.
Tips for Caregivers
- Speak simply. Use short sentences and avoid long explanations.
- Understand that your body language speaks as loudly as words, and act accordingly.
- Allow your loved one choices, but limit them. For example, give a choice between wearing a red shirt or a blue shirt, or a dinner of chicken or pasta.
- Touch and hug the person often, as long as the person does not object.
- Don’t argue; you will not win. Agree, and redirect the discussion or distract the person. Consider taking a page from Improvisational Theater by responding “Yes! And …..”
- You both will have a better quality of life with exercise, fresh air and sleep. Do what you can to make sure you get them.
- Make sure your living environment is brightly lit. Bright lighting and sunshine will reduce depression and anxiety in your loved one.
- Use music as a way to connect with your loved one. Get recordings of the music that he or she likes and play it often.
- Reminisce with photos, retelling of stories and other prompts. Join them in reliving times that brought them happiness.
- When you do something that clearly pleases your loved one, savor the moment.