I’ve been the caregiver for my father for over three years now. He has Alzheimer’s disease and moved in with us about a year ago. In the past few years, the role of caregiver has gradually taken over my life.
As my father’s needs have increased, I’ve neglected my own physical and emotional well-being. His disease is so all-consuming that it leaves little time for anything else. But I know I need to find ways to better manage it all.
My goal for 2018 is to take better care of myself. I realize if something happens to me, there won’t be anyone else to care for my father like he deserves. Do you have any advice on caring for the caregiver?
2018 Caregiver Resolutions for Family Caregivers
Your struggle is one shared by many family caregivers, especially those caring for a loved one with dementia. The role really can take over your life as the months and years go by.
It is very insightful of you to recognize how important it is for you to take better care of yourself so you can continue to look after your father. Here are a few suggestions:
- Ask for Help: Adult children often feel a duty to care for their parent all on their own. It makes them reluctant and even unwilling to ask for and accept help. Make 2018 the year you give yourself permission to seek help. It might be by asking a family member to run errands for you a few times a month or a friend to pick your kids up from soccer practice.
- Consider Respite Care: Another option that gives you the support necessary to restore your own health and well-being is to take advantage of respite care services on a regular basis. Senior living communities like Benchmark offer these short-term stays to give family caregivers a break. It can be for a few days or even a few weeks. Your dad would have the opportunity to participate in all of the daily activities our long-term memory care residents enjoy, as well as our dedicated dining program. You can relax knowing your father is in good hands.
- Schedule a Physical Exam: Since it sounds like you’ve put your own health on the back burner, it might be time to schedule a physical with your primary care physician. They can provide an objective assessment of your well-being and help you get back on schedule with your own preventative health screenings.
- Get Moving: Because most family caregivers are so busy, they don’t make time for physical exercise. In a chaotic, overscheduled day, it’s easy to let physical fitness activities slide. One idea for 2018 is to find two or three forms of exercise you and your dad can engage in together each day. Maybe you take a 15-minute walk around the neighborhood after breakfast and then practice chair yoga after lunch—30 minutes of combined daily exercise will help both of you reduce stress and enjoy a better night’s rest. Talk with your and your father’s physician for advice.
- Eat Right: Most family caregivers will sheepishly admit that their primary diet consists of fast food, convenience items, and takeout. None of which is likely very healthy. In fact, most are loaded with sodium, saturated fat, and calories. But when the days are busy, there might not be time to prepare healthy foods. If you aren’t able to prepare a week’s worth of healthy meals over the weekend, consider signing up for a home delivery meal service.
- Stay in Touch: Isolation is a battle many Alzheimer’s caregivers face. And the reality is that it can be tough to stay connected with others when your loved one isn’t safe alone. Fortunately, technology makes it easier to stay in touch. While personal visits are best, you can also use video chat services to talk with loved ones “face-to-face.”
- Join an Online Support Group: Alzheimer’s caregivers face very unique challenges each day. From coping with agitation to preventing wandering, the struggles are quite different. Joining an online support group made up of adults who are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can help give you both advice for managing shared challenges, as well as emotional support.
I hope this information is helpful, Hannah! I’ll be wishing you and your dad all the best in 2018.
Until next time,