I meet caregivers constantly. Caregivers looking after their mothers, fathers, spouses, siblings, best friends, aunts, uncles…they all have a story worth telling. Almost all of them are the sole caregiver.
Somehow, someway, they’ve found themselves in the position of looking after another adult 24/7. Be it because “no one else can do it,” or out of sheer guilt, the caregiver becomes the only person taking care of the individual with dementia.
Don’t be your loved one’s sole caregiver.
1. It’s an impossible task. When you are raising a healthy child, the child gets better at caring for themselves over time. People with dementia get worse and worse over time. It’s a task that gets harder and harder.
2. It’s not healthy for you. Your nagging guilt is whispering in your ear, “You have to stick it out!” I’m telling you that your Guilt is wrong, and it needs to shut up. Being another adult’s sole caregiver is not healthy for you. In fact, due to the intense emotional (and often physical!) stress of caring for someone, many caregivers die before the person with dementia does.
3. It’s not healthy for the person with dementia. You can’t be everything and everywhere, and your person with dementia needs 24/7 care. Even if you are doing everything you can, it’s not going to be enough. Maybe you lay down for a quick nap (a normal thing to do!) and your loved one with dementia is out the door when you wake up. They need more care than one person can provide.
4. Everyone needs socialization. This is a big one for me. People need to socialize, and seeing the same face, day after day, isn’t really healthy, especially when that face doesn’t match your cognitive level. Your loved one with dementia can’t really communicate with you on their level, and you can’t communicate with them on your level. There’s a huge mismatch here that causes two individuals to essentially “drop out” of normal society due to isolation.
5. There are so many other options. It’s true: there are other options for housing, culture, and safety for the person with dementia. To name a few good ones: You live in an Independent Living Community and they live with you; moving that person to Assisted Living; trying Adult Day Care; hiring a Home Care Agency. There are many more combinations of options, as well.
Here’s my main point: stop being your person’s sole caregiver.
Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.
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