6 Tips to Young Caregivers Helping a Relative with Dementia
Understanding dementia as a younger member of the family can be hard. This isn't to say that teens and young adults do not understand the technical aspects of what dementia involves. Often, many a family member, friend and sometimes medical staff will have offered an explanation of the disease. However, the explanation and experiences of others are very difficult to take on board emotionally and without prior experience. My daughter and I have written this Sharepost together with tips we hope will help young people.
Whether the person suffering from dementia is a close family member or a distant family friend truly understanding which aspects of their personality remains the same and which have altered can be challenging. My daughter's personal experience with an elderly member of the family (living with us) meant we built up a small but honest guide that we hope will help others and help them deal with the strain that can sometimes be placed on your emotions and understanding.
1. Remember you're NOT the only one.
Talk to your friends, family or even on blog pages (there really is one for everything). It is important to remember your actions and reactions aren't just affecting you, but those that surround you as well. It may sound cliché, but talking to someone can really help to ease the burden.
2. Learn that you can walk away
We don't mean pack your bags and we don't mean slam doors. If something has upset you, no matter what the reason, take time out. My daughter admits this is one point she definitely struggled with as the urge to react can be HUGELY tempting at times. Anger and upset are common emotions but reacting negatively, in most situations, will only lead to a much worse outcome. Walking away means you can analyse the situation properly, even ask someone's opinion, but it almost undoubtedly, will stop you reacting towards the person suffering from dementia. If you do, it will upset both of you.
3. Do some research
Understanding the situation and the next likely stages of the disease can be helpful. As the person with dementia deteriorates you have to adapt your caregiving. It can help you form a rounded picture of what is truly happening to the person you care for. This might sound particularly depressing but it really helped my daughter understand what we were up against as a family.
4. Stay Close
We are a small family; three at the time. Dealing with the introduction of my father as a fourth member could have been, I am sure, a lot more traumatic. Sleepless nights and emotional upset can really take a toll on your relationships with one another and my daughter often complained about the atmosphere that sometimes arose in the house. Despite all this, learning not to bite off each other's heads (another temptation) really helped us to work together. For my daughter, her role in caring was small but little things like cooking a meal once in a while, assisting with taking her Grandpa out and taking time out to talk to him, all helped to tick something off the mental list of things to do.
5. Being Honest for the Right reasons
Taking on the full time care of a loved one can be a gruelling job, sometimes it takes the honesty of another to tell you to step back from the role, even if it is just for a few hours.
6 Get some help.
For us the hospital, hospice and Marie Curie nurses who came to our home to help at night, were amazing. Help sometimes isn't offered until the very advanced stages. By that stage it can actually be difficult to let go, even though you fully appreciate the extra help. Learning to unload some of the responsibility can take time, but give it a chance.
My daughter says 'Even if it is just a little push in the right direction, we hope these tips help you. We certainly wish we had discovered them a little earlier on'. Overall, we did a good job between us looking after a very important family member. It showed us that resilience and love are intertwined and that it's ok not to expect a smooth path.