New Year’s Resolutions for Family Caregivers
If someone in your life has Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, the last thing you need to ring in the new year is more nudges toward self-improvement. You may already be thinking, Forget resolutions about losing weight and exercising more–I just need to figure out how to survive the stress in 2022.
Fear not. The following list of resolutions is meant to help you. How? By making taking care of someone with dementia easier. It’s stuff you may already know–what I’m asking is that you consider it through a fresh lens. Make it your ultimate resolution to see tough situations as opportunities to make life better for yourself.
So as 2022 begins, why not vow to:
- Bite your tongue rather than say the dreaded words, “You just asked me that!”
There’s an old saying, If you want to get along, go along. Losing patience or quarreling lets you vent—but actually makes the situation worse, since the person with dementia is apt to grow frightened or agitated.
Learn little tricks for smoother communication. For example, when repetition is a problem and your patience is fried, try moving to a different room to redirect the conversation around new, different stimuli.
- Move out of your comfort zone to find fresh ways to help your loved one stay occupied and connected.
True, it’s work to think up meaningful and purposeful activities for someone with dementia to do. But in the long run, you save time by making the person feel more content. Staying busy provides a great sense of purpose, even if it’s folding (and refolding) towels or organizing (and reorganizing) the silverware drawer.
One starting point: Music. Because of the way the brain is organized, music can reach even those who never showed the slightest artistic inclination.
- Have a weekly date night – with yourself.
Parents with young babies often receive the advice to plan nights out together to stay in touch with their relationship as partners, not just as parents. Similarly, you need to preserve a sense of yourself as an individual, not just as a caregiver. The trick is to set a regular appointment—whether it’s to work out, to meet a friend for lunch, or just to go shopping, idly pushing a cart down the aisle with no one else to worry about.
Then pencil this regular appointment in your datebook like a doctor’s appointment. You wouldn’t cancel that, would you?
- Let it go, let it go, let it go.
When you catch yourself second-guessing yourself take a deep breath and just… let it go. Remember, nobody is perfect.
- Be open to advice–but toss out what doesn’t fit.
There’s a saying, When you’ve seen one person with Alzheimer’s…you’ve seen one person with Alzheimer’s. Each person’s disorder manifests uniquely. So do snarf up all the info you can find on day-to-day life with dementia, but realize that it won’t all apply to your situation. Don’t waste a second feeling isolated or like you’re doing something “wrong” if a certain approach doesn’t work. There are many approaches.
- Draw yourself a support circle.
There are a number of ways to connect with other caregivers, in support groups and online. Kemper House offers both in-person and virtual support group options. Our support groups are a safe space to share your feelings, ask questions, and gain knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. Let’s connect and help each other on this journey. You are not alone. The support you need is here. (Click here for more information on Kemper House’s support groups.)
One final resolution: Tear up this year’s self-improvement lists! A whole year is too much to plan for. If you’re caring for someone with dementia, all you can do is take it one day at a time.
–Adapted from “Six New Year’s Resolutions If Someone You Love Has Alzheimer’s,” written by Paula Spencer Scott, Caring.com senior editor
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