The New Year brings with it new opportunities for dementia caregivers to make necessary changes.
A new year signals a new start, and what better time to reassess life and set some resolutions to help you and your loved one live well with dementia this year…
1. Ensure your loved one has sorted out their affairs
If they haven’t already started organizing things such as setting up Lasting Power of Attorney or ensuring they’ve written a Will, the New Year could be a good excuse to make them sit down and get organized. The sooner it’s done, the better, because if it’s left too late, or until your loved starts to lose their mental capacity, the process can be more complicated.
2. Help them make their bucket list
A bucket list can help your loved one take back control and add some much needed excitement and purpose to life after a dementia diagnosis. It doesn’t have to be filled with crazy stunts or far-flung holidays. It could be something as simple as visiting a particular city that they’ve never been to, or trying out a hobby that they’ve never done before.
3. Reach out to friends, family and supporters
Caring for someone with dementia can be tough. There’s no question of that. So it’s really important that you make the most of people around you who can help. If family don’t live nearby or are unable (or even unwilling) to support you, perhaps there are neighbors who can help out with caring or looking out for your loved one with dementia now and again. Or, you could see what dementia befriending schemes or memory [resources] there are in your area, and which could provide a source of much-needed support. Remember, you aren’t alone.
4. Check that you’re receiving the right financial support
Both you and the person you care for may be entitled to some benefits to help you along in your dementia journey and the New Year is as good a time as any to reassess the financial situation.
5. Look after your health
It’s very easy to become so wrapped up in caring for your loved one with dementia that you start to neglect your own health. The problem is that ultimately this impacts not just you, but your loved one, too, as you won’t be able to provide the right level of care to ensure their quality of life. If you feel you’ve been neglecting your health – perhaps you haven’t been eating well, getting enough sleep or are just generally feeling very stressed – make this year the year that you make a real effort to look at your own health. For example, if you’ve been putting off that doctor’s appointment because you’re too busy, or you’ve been using food or alcohol as a comfort for the high levels of stress you’ve been feeling, now’s the time to turn over a new leaf.
6. Help them create their life story
Connecting with a loved one with dementia can be tricky. They may be feeling down or stressed at the changes in their memory or agitated at the fact that they can’t remember what happened or who they met last week. However, where they’ll probably still excel is reminiscing about days gone by. That’s why helping them to write their life story can make a great project for the New Year. As well as being a satisfying activity that brings purpose to each day, it’s also a very useful tool for you as a carer to reconnect and find topics of conversation that you can both enjoy.
7. Make more time for yourself
It's all too easy to forget about yourself when you’re caring for someone with dementia, but [scheduling] regular ‘me time’ is vital for ensuring that you stay happy and healthy and therefore an effective [caregiver] for your loved one. Make sure you schedule it in (even if it’s just an evening on your own at the cinema while a neighbor stays with your relative) – try adding it to their care plan. You may also be able to book your loved one in for some respite care. However you choose to get some time for yourself, try not to feel guilty about doing it. Just remember that you deserve this time, and thinking about this is a great resolution to make this year.