Caring for someone can be rewarding, learning new skills, supporting someone who is important to you and strengthening relationships. However, it can also be hard work. It can be both physically and mentally exhausting. Caring affects every part of your life, it can make you feel isolated, and you may feel a mixture of emotions such as guilt, resentment, sadness and frustration.
The first step in getting help is to ask your local council for a carer’s assessment. An assessment may recommend training in how to lift safely, help with housework and shopping, putting you in touch with local support groups, someone to take over so that you can take a break. Ensure that you are registered as a carer with your GP and check to see that you are eligible for any benefits.
As a person’s symptoms progress, they may feel anxious, stressed and scared as they are not able to follow conversations or to concentrate. It is important to support the person to maintain skills, abilities and to continue an active social life; this will also help with how they feel about themselves. It can be difficult to adapt to change but it is important to focus on what they can do rather than what they can’t. You can assist them with this by encouraging them to help with everyday tasks, such as shopping, laying a table and gardening or even to take the dog for a walk. You can make your home dementia friendly by adding labels to cupboards, draws and doors.
Sometimes it can be difficult to communicate with someone who has dementia, as they can often become confused and unable to express their feelings and emotions clearly. Some people living with dementia show aggressive behaviour; this can be verbal or physical. This is a symptom of dementia and can appear or disappear at any stage of the illness. You can contact their GP or community Psychiatric nurse for support.
As a carer for a person living with dementia, you may both face particular challenges and it’s important to get as much support as possible. It is important to remember that your needs as a carer are important as the person you are caring for.
Tips for caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s
Know your limits: Remember that you are only one person and there is only so much that you can do. Focus on what you can do and accept the things that you can’t.
Prioritise: Work out which things you really need to do and which things are less important, and do the most important things first.
Don’t compare yourself: Remember everyone’s situation is different. You may feel others are coping better than you. You may struggle with things that they find easy but they may struggle with the things that you cope well with.
Confront your feelings: It is important to understand your feelings. Having negative feelings does not make you a bad person. If you are feeling frustrated, try to find out why. Are you getting enough support? Are you trying to do too much? Once you understand your feelings, you will be able to make clearer decisions about what are right for you and the person you are caring for.
Talk about things: Talking can make you feel less stressed or isolated and can help you put things into perspective. You can discuss with your GP, Social worker, a friend or a family member, to other carers, or to The Fire Fighters Charity.
Take a break: Taking regular breaks can help you to look after yourself. Family and friends may be able to provide short breaks, for you to have some time to yourself. Other options are day centres, social services will be able to provide details of these or respite care, thus can be provided in your own home or in a care home.
Organisations that provide support and advice
Alzheimer’s Society National Dementia Helpline: 0300 222 1122
Independent Age: 0800 319 6789
Age UK’s Advice Line: 0800 319 6789
Dementia UK Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline: 0800 888 6678
Carers UK: 0800 808 777
Carers Direct Helpline: 0300 123 1053