Habits for Caregivers to Break
If your loved one has Alzheimer’s or another dementia, you know firsthand the blessings and challenges of being a caregiver. But to give the best care possible, sometimes it’s good to set aside time to stop and review what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Do you see yourself with any of these tendencies? If so, it’s time to break these habits, as they can be self-defeating and counter-productive.
1.Stop setting unrealistic expectations. Whether it’s trying to get out of the house on time, expecting your loved one to remember where your she placed her glasses or hoping that she can follow multiple-step directions, be realistic with what you expect your her to do. Stop expecting her to be able to do everything like she used to, every time. Along that same line of thought (and sometimes an even harder challenge): Be realistic with what you demand of yourself.
2.Stop avoiding the hard questions. Sometimes, it’s easier in the short run not to know the answers to tough questions. But as we continue on the path, a little foresight will prove immensely helpful. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease; planning ahead can help. Here are a few areas that are easy to ignore but should be addressed:
- If you see the symptoms of Alzheimer’s or another dementia in your loved one, don’t ignore those changes. Burying your head in the sand doesn’t reverse the situation, and not treating Alzheimer’s can cause the disease to progress faster.
- Learn all you can about Alzheimer’s disease and what to expect.
- Talk with your loved one about what he wants in the future. It may be uncomfortable to discuss these things, but you will be able to be confident in your decisions, knowing that you’re doing what he wants you to do. These discussions should include care options for when his disease progresses, power of attorney designations, and living-will preferences.
3.Stop assuming no one understands. Do you sometimes crave a conversation with someone who is also in the middle of the trenches? Most of us do! But if that person isn’t easily found or is so busy being in those trenches that it’s hard to connect, give someone else a try. While they might not totally understand from experience where you’re coming from, they may be honored to listen. Don’t cheat someone of the chance to be your friend just because you’ve made the assumption they can’t understand the challenges you face.
4.Stop trying to do it alone. We’ve all heard this one, right? And yet for some reason, it’s so hard to do. Here are a few reasons we get stuck in the “I-can-do-it-by-myself” mode and resist help:
- Others may not be available or willing to assist you. Not everyone has an army of family members ready or able to help. But remember: There are options for in-home care that you could consider, as well as support groups and community resources available for people with Alzheimer’s.
- You’re probably used to being the dependable one. That’s great, but once in awhile you need to let go of things so that you can continue to function well in life. Consider it preventive medicine; arrange for some help once in a while.
- Perhaps you made a promise to care for your loved one. Remember that this promise did not require you to do it solo. You can still keep that promise and have a little help, too.
- It may feel embarrassing to ask for help. Being a caregiver is a messy experience at times, both physically and emotionally. However, there can be some freedom at times in laying it out there and asking for assistance.