When someone is caring for a loved one coping with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, it is all too common for the family caregiver to try to do it all alone. Spouses and adult children often make the mistake of thinking that they should be able to take care of their loved one without any help. There are a variety of reasons why people can fall into this trap, but trying to do it all can take a family caregiver down the road to burnout. Caring for any elderly loved one can be a lot of work, but caring for someone with dementia can be nearly a full-time job. Being willing to ask for help, recognizing when help is needed, and knowing where to turn are important skills for any family caregiver.
Family and friends can be a great source of help for a family caregiver. It can be common, however, for people to resist asking for help from family and friends. Pride can be a major factor in this regard. When faced with challenging situations, many of us tend to want to knuckle down and bear it alone, not wishing to be a burden to others. Americans, in particular, are often raised to think that doing it on your own is something to be proud of. Even when we know family and friends might be happy to help, it can be hard to ask. If talking to someone directly about needing help feels a bit daunting, consider reaching out to a whole group at the same time. It might actually feel easier and a bit less intense. Starting a group text or a social media chat can be a good way to break the ice. Often, you’ll find that help can come from those who might not be your first phone call. Once a family member or friend has agreed to help out, don’t stop there. Relying on just one person for help can also be a pitfall. Most people have busy schedules and simply can’t be available whenever help is needed. It’s a good idea to build a circle of a few people that can pitch in when help is needed. It can also be beneficial to ask for help with a specific task. Ask family and friends for help with something in particular – transportation to an appointment, a few hours of respite care, help preparing a meal, or even assistance folding laundry once a month. People can sometimes be more willing to volunteer if you tell them what you need.
The entire journey through dementia is challenging, but often the most taxing part is care at the end of the disease process. When a loved one requires assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and needs help with dressing, toileting, and/or eating, it can push family caregivers beyond their capabilities. It is at this point that it might be time to consider the help of professionals. It’s important to remember that professional assistance does not mean you are no longer a loving family member and caregiver. It just means you are allowing others to join your team of care. It can be helpful to remember that professional care staff do it in shifts, making their work feasible. You can’t take breaks to catch your breath if you are working all the shifts!
If you’re at the point where you feel that professional assistance is needed, there are a variety of resources available to you. A good first step is often in-home care through a home care agency. Home care agencies provide a range of services, from simply companionship and sitter services to hands on assistance with bathing to even 24-hour care. An alternative to home care that can be helpful before a loved one needs residential care is an adult day care facility. Adult day care facilities should be able to administer medications and even assist with some personal care like bathing. In our Texas facilities, Iris Memory Care offers day stays in our residential communities that is similar to care provided at adult day care facilities. Residential care like we offer at Iris Memory Care is often the final step in professional services. Iris Memory Care offers both short-term respite care and long-term care at all of our locations.
If you’re not familiar with the different services in your area, you can start by contacting the Alzheimer’s Association. They have free information and advocates nationwide. They can also put you in touch with local resource agencies. The Community Relation Directors at Iris Memory Care are also happy to help connect you to resources, including options not provided by Iris. We are here to help. Contact us today!