The process of caring for somebody with dementia can be very challenging and pose a variety of different obstacles along the journey. With the right support and knowledge, however, becoming a carer can be extremely rewarding and provide a wholesome experience overall.
It is important that the transition into becoming a carer is handled carefully and that you are aware of as much information regarding dementia as possible. In doing so, you will be more prepared for the challenges that may occur in the future and possess the knowledge of how best to deal with them.
It is common that people do not actually realise that they are a ‘carer’. Particularly in cases where a person is looking after a partner, a parent or even a close friend, they may think of their assistance as simply ‘helping out’, rather than providing a service of care. This is an important distinction to make, as a carer can be eligible for a range of benefits.
You may want to consider requesting a carer’s assessment, which is able to suggest solutions that can make your life easier. This includes help with various errands such as housework and shopping, signposting connections to local support groups, recommending respite breaks and checks to see if you’re eligible for carer benefits.
What can I expect as a carer?
Caring for somebody who has dementia may cause multiple changes to your everyday life, these can include financial, psychological, emotional and physical alterations. Due to this, it is common for carers to feel frustrated during care, and guilty that they may not be doing a good enough job. It is essential to remember that there is no such thing as ‘perfect’ care or a ‘perfect carer’, because each person has different needs and requires care tailored to their circumstances.
In the earlier stages of dementia, the person effected may be able to live their life completely the same as they always have. However, as time goes on, unfortunately they will begin to forget information, struggle to concentrate and may even find it difficult to follow conversations. These changes can be extremely frustrating for the person and they may start to act differently to normal. The role of a carer is to do their best to minimise the anxiety, stress and fear felt by the person as these changes occur.
What can I do to help?
Although it is important to monitor the person with dementia and make sure that they remain safe, it is also important to help them to feel independent. In doing so, their levels of confidence increase and they are able to retain the feeling of self-sustainability. Below are some tips that can help to facilitate this:
Let the person help with everyday tasks – Involving the person in simple activities such as shopping, laying the table, gardening, taking the dog for a walk can help to give the person a feeling of purpose and a sense of normality.
Make a dementia friendly home – Making slight amendments to the person’s household can help to make their life easier. These can include things such as adding memory aids (i.e. labels, signs) to doors and cupboards, incorporating bright, vibrant colours into the environment in order to help with the person’s depth perception and to identify different items, considering/removing any possible hazards that may cause a problem to the person (i.e. clutter, exposed wires, glass furniture).
Eating and drinking routine – A person with dementia can sometimes not realise that they feel hungry or thirsty and are prone to not recognising or remembering what they like to eat and drink. In order to remedy this, if they are able to, it can be helpful to involve the person in the food and drink preparation. This allows the person to connect visually with the food and drink, which can help to engage their recall. In addition to this, the tastes of a person with dementia can also change, so be prepared for them to opt for stronger flavours or sweeter foods and drinks than before.
Caring for yourself
When you care for a loved one it’s easy to forget about your own needs and it can be difficult to find time for yourself. It is common for a carer to assume that their own health is fine without any real inspection, as they feel that there are more pressing matters at hand than individual self-care. However, it is important to remember that if you are able to maintain a healthy wellbeing yourself, by extension, it is likely that you will be able to provide better help and care to others.
Caring for somebody with dementia can have a substantial emotional effect on a carer. The dementia journey is likely to elicit a wide range of feelings within the carer, which can often change quickly and occur simultaneously. This mix of emotions can be confusing to encounter and difficult to come to terms with. It is important to remember that you are not alone, and that there are many other carers who will feel the same as you. It can be helpful to try to understand why you are experiencing these feelings, as this awareness will allow you to be more emotionally prepared and allow you to discover connections between certain feelings and certain situations.
It is also very important to try to invest in some ‘you time’, when you can channel your energy into your hobbies and interests or anything that you may find enjoyable. Taking your mind off of your caring responsibilities can help to recharge your batteries. It can be helpful to make a weekly plan when you can schedule some time off for yourself, this gives the caring regime some structure and allows yourself something to look forward too. Carer breaks and respite care can also be an effective way for carers to take time out to look after themselves and help to prevent any feelings of exhaustion or burnout.
If you feel you are struggling to cope, then please do not hesitate to contact us to see what support we can offer you.
How and where to access support
For more information regarding caring for somebody with dementia, please click here.
For more information regarding a carer’s assessment, please click here.
For sources of support please see our ‘Local Support Search’, which can be accessed by clicking here.
For more information regarding a dementia friendly home, please click here.
For more information regarding carer wellbeing, please click here.
For more information regarding carer breaks and respite care, please click here.
The most recent Dementia Report for ‘Supporting People with Dementia and Their Carers’ (2021-22) can also be accessed by clicking here.