National Caregivers Month: Our top caregiver tips
November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and National Caregivers Month! We’ll be posting a series of weekly blogs dedicated to supporting the work of caregivers this month. Caregivers take on no small task, and we know caregiving isn’t always easy. This series will focus on crucial pointers to help you prepare for the day and the future days to come. These tips are offered courtesy of our expert Family Care Specialists and other resources offered by the Alzheimer’s Association.
First things first: how can you be a better caregiver? Here are the five tips our Specialists most suggest to caregivers. These tips are not rated in any particular order, but can help in your efforts to be the best caregiver that you can be.
1. Take care of yourself
Anyone who has flown in an airplane has had the safety talk. We know there are four exits and the seat can be used as floatation device. But what about the oxygen masks? While applying the oxygen masks it is crucial to remember. “If you are traveling with a child or someone that requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.” And so it is with all of life. How can you help others if you can’t help yourself?
As caregivers, there is only so much time in a day to assist your ward and complete all other tasks on your To Do list. Do not forget that taking care of your own well-being is key. So instead of ignoring yourself, put “Me-time” on the top of your list. Taking time out to secure your own well-being will give you the stamina emotionally and physically to carry on.
Often times, caregivers experience caregivers stress. Gauge how you are feeling each week with a self check to stay tuned to how you are doing. You can check out the Alzheimer’s Association’s Caregiver Stress Check online! Ask yourself questions such as:
- Do I regularly feel anxious?
- Do I regularly deny the disease?
- Have I been withdrawing from friends and family?
- Do I regularly feel like I am not doing enough for the person I am caring for?
Answering yes to most of these questions helps you understand if caregivers stress is present. The next step is to act. Schedule in “me-time” and keep updated on your own physical. Maintaining a healthy diet, exercising and getting appropriate amounts of sleep are some steps to take to act on improving your physical health. If you are not feeling well, work with your doctor to improve your health and get you back on track. Emotional health is just as important as the physical. Don’t be afraid to take time out for yourself – mediate, utilize adult day care facilities or continue with an activity that you have enjoyed in the past.
2. Change the way you communicate
Though the person we knew and loved might still be there, their way of reasoning and understanding has changed. When approaching people living with dementia, communication must be modified. Tips to remember when communicating with the person are:
- Take it slow and keep it simple.
- Give one-step directions
- Give enough time for the person with dementia to think about the request
- When you repeat yourself, do so exactly the ways you said it the first time
- Do not reason with the person
- Give honest compliments
3. Kindness before honesty
Following closely behind communication modifications is this tip: kindness before honesty. As caregivers, we need not be above deception. There are times where a situation seems to be unsolvable; the person you care for has become frustrated with what is unfolding in a situation. These times might become frustrating and overwhelming, but you must do what is best for the person. Is the person having a hard time when you leave their side? Tell them that you will be back in a few minutes. Whether you are or not, it is better to choose to be kind in the moment and appeal to their emotions than lose patience with them when being honest.
4. Think outside of the box
As different situations arise, apply unique solutions. If what you are doing is not working, it is time to try something you haven’t tried before. An example of this was given by Alex, who was helping a caregiver who was having a problem with their loved one wandering at night. She suggested that the caregiver apply a dowel to the track of a sliding glass door to prevent the person from getting to the backyard. The dowel lock was something new and unfamiliar to the person, so it was an effective solution to an ongoing problem.
5. Go with the Flow
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia demand flexibility. Some techniques work one hour, but fail the next. Some days the person you are caring for is content. Other days? Not so much. With this unpredictability, it will be most helpful as a caregiver to accept flexibility into your schedule—ride the waves when the rapids come and steer the best you can. Though it is important to have a schedule, it is not the end of the world if plans need to be shifted. If you make plans for your loved one to attend an adult day care and they do not want to go, that’s okay! Try next time. If they are unwilling to bathe, that’s okay! Unless there is an issue with incontinence, bathing is not mandatory. If you learn to let the little things get to you, it will only cause more stress in your caregiving.
If you are seeking more aid for caregiving give us a call at our toll-free 24/7 Helpline 800.272.3900. This Helpline is staffed by masters-level counselors and provides information and guidance in more than 170 languages and dialects. You can also try these great Alzheimer’s Association online services:
- The Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center (alz.org/care): This site provides information and easy access to resources, such as:
- Community Resource Finder — Find local resources.
- Care Team Calendar — Coordinate caregiving responsibilities among family and friends.
- Safety Center — Access information and resources for safety inside and outside of the home, wandering and getting lost, and dementia and driving.
- ALZConnectedTM, powered by the Alzheimer’s Association (alzconnected.org): This is the first social networking community designed for people living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. ALZConnected is a specialized social network that allows members to connect and communicate with people who understand their unique challenges 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They can also pose questions and offer solutions to dementia-related issues, create public and private groups organized around a dedicated topic, and contribute to message boards.
Helpful information related to this story
Read more caregiver tips
Watch educational videos from our past caregiver conferences
Hear tips from Alzheimer’s caregivers