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Caregiving for a Person Living with Dementia 

If asked, those who care for a person living with dementia would tell you that frustration, isolation, fatigue, depression, and stress are words associated with being a caregiver. For many, care is sandwiched between the "now" family (your children and grandchildren), and the "then family", grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles. Taking care of children, working full time, and caring for a parent or another significant older adult in your life can be a daunting responsibility.
According to the National Alzheimer's Association, 6.5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. By 2050, the number is projected to increase to 13 million. The mere fact that people are living longer accounts for the rise in cases. But along with this rise, there is an increase in caregiving responsibilities. It is also noted by the Alzheimer's Association that 83% of unpaid caregivers in the United States come from family members, with other aid from friends or other unpaid caregivers.
Caregiving refers to aiding one's health needs and well-being. This may be broken up into two categories. Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) would be helping with household chores, shopping, meal prep, supplying transportation to and from medical visits, arranging doctor’s appointments as well as managing finances and legal affairs. Another important task under IADLs would be setting up a person's medication and daily reminders. It would be important as a caregiver to make sure the person living with dementia is following their treatment plan for their dementia, but also treatment plans for other medical conditions they may be diagnosed with, such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure or diabetes, just to name a few.
Activity of Daily Living (ADL's) is another aspect of a caregiver's job. ADL's include bathing, toileting, grooming, dressing, feeding, and assisting in transferring from a bed to chair.
One of the most difficult parts of caregiving can be managing the symptoms of dementia such as aggressive behaviors, wandering, hoarding, repetitive activities, and sleep disturbances.
The importance of continually providing emotional support and giving the person living with dementia a sense of security cannot be overstated.
Although what has been mentioned can sound overwhelming, and often it may seem that way, caregiving can be extremely rewarding. Knowing that you are doing your best to support your loved one can be gratifying. However, if you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot take care of others. Some simple tips to help with care of the person living with dementia and self-care:
  • Understand the person's reality and walk with them in it. When your loved one says something that is not true, such as "I have to go to work today, "Do not tell them they are wrong. It is their reality, so ask them about it. Say something such as, "tell me about your job. What’s on your to do list today?" Then simply redirect them. It will make them feel like they are being heard, and you will feel less frustrated. 
  • Accept help. Make a "to do" list and ask them to pick whatever items they can help with. That will make your list smaller and reduce your anxiety. 
  • You may ask someone to sit with your loved one while you go for a walk or go to the store. That may give you some "me" time which can be very healing. When the person you are caring for takes a rest during the day, do something you enjoy, such as reading. Or just be! Sit in silence, take some deep breaths, and release each breath slowly, while focusing on something positive. Breathing slowly and focusing on positive thoughts is a form of meditation. Meditation has been proven to release endorphins which are your, "feel good" hormones. 
  •  Think with an abundance of gratitude. Gratitude has been proven to change the chemistry of the brain. Those who practice gratitude have less anxiety, depression, and stress. 
  • Lastly, know that you are not alone. There's always help available to you.
Caregivers are the most overworked, undervalued group there is. Know that you are appreciated and the person living with dementia would tell you this if they could.

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