Becoming a Caregiver for a Loved One with Dementia

The thought of a loved one not being able to live well can truly bring pain and worry to our lives every day. Families living with dementia patients can attest to that — it would be tough to leave them alone. They’d need 24/7 supervision to ensure safety and that their daily needs are provided for. Without someone by their side, dementia patients can put themselves in danger or get lost and find it difficult to return home. That’s why family members are advised to make a plan for them as soon as symptoms of the disease become apparent.

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If you have yet to decide to hire a caregiver, you can be one yourself. Any family member or close friend can take the position of caregiver. There will be a lot of adjustments in your household to accommodate the needs of your loved one. You could also create a schedule of who’s available to be grandpa’s or grandma’s companion on a particular day. Everything’s easier with a system so that whoever is the caregiver of the day can fulfill their responsibility.

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What are The Main Responsibilities of a Caregiver?

An elderly who has developed dementia can start acting like a toddler. Caring for them is like nurturing a child; you’ll attend to their everyday needs. The caregiver is required to assist with several matters, such as the following:

Personal Care – it’s important to maintain the patient’s hygiene to keep them comfortable and clean. As the caregiver, you are expected to handle them with care while bathing, grooming, dressing, and toileting.

Food Preparation – you are assigned to make food for them daily. The patient’s meal must be according to their physician’s advice, especially when the patient has comorbidities. It would be best if you have a meal plan for them so you can quickly prepare food every day. Furthermore, you are expected to feed them well, and you’ll need patience since some patients can be stubborn and become picky eaters.

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Health Care – medications must be taken by schedule, and the caregiver’s role is to ensure that each one is consumed at the right time. You are also expected to keep in contact with their doctor in case an issue arises. Aside from that, medical appointments must be added to your reminders to avoid missing a health examination.

Mobility Assistance – as dementia develops, your elderly loved one may lose their ability to walk, stand, sit, or get themselves up. They’ll need your support to move from one place to another. Wheelchairs are essential when assisting them, especially outdoors or at a doctor’s appointment. Bringing them outside as leisure is vital, so they are not cooped up in the house all week.

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Emotional Support – the degenerative disease brings a very confusing stage in the life of your loved one. Emotional support is as significant as being their aid all throughout the day. Listen to their stories, communicate with them, and be the reason they still get to experience lighter days. Hold their hand and be there for them even when they tend to get agitated and aggressive.

Substitute Caregiver – everyone has a life outside of caregiving, especially regarding career, social life, or personal priorities. If somebody else has taken the role of the primary caregiver, allow them to take some time off and cover for them for a while. Caring for the elderly almost 24/7 can wear out anyone, so it’s best if family members agree on a shift schedule. For this reason, everyone, whether an adult or a capable child, should be aware of how things are done to provide elderly care.

Who can Be a Carer for a Disabled Person?

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Any family member efficient enough to accomplish the responsibilities listed above can be a caregiver. Most importantly, they must be physically healthy to safely aid the disabled person. The caregiver can be a spouse, adult children, grandchildren, relatives, or close family friend. And if the family isn’t always available, you can opt for the following types of caregivers:

Independent Caregivers – the person is directly hired by the family and has no connections to a healthcare agency. They assist in the household and are paid for the services they offer.

Private Duty Caregivers – they are affiliated with an agency and accompany the elderly every day, and all responsibilities are covered by them, even medical and nursing aid.

Professional Caregivers – the agency will choose the caregiver who will be assigned to your family. Caregivers under an institution usually undergo several training sessions before being dispatched for work. They even have a care plan, making turnover easier for the family. Lastly, the caregiver is paid through the agency.

Photo: Pexels/Anastasia Shuraeva

Like any other job, a caregiver also requires certain skills and personality traits. Aside from fulfilling your duties, you need to enhance or show these qualities:

  • Dedicated carer
  • Emphathetic
  • Patient
  • Encouraging
  • Reliable
  • Respectful
  • Observant
  • Great communicator
  • Knowledgeable

Without these traits, your ability to cook, groom, and finish all your tasks would not be done with the best intentions. If you have a great amount of care for a person out of duty or out of love, you can become a caregiver even without professional training.

How do I Survive as a Caregiver?

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There’s a reason why having patience is vital when you are a caregiver. It may seem that you are only assisting a disabled person in various aspects of their life, but you’ll also be dealing with emotional issues. Some dementia patients can be messy, stubborn when taking food and medicine, and physically and verbally violent. Learn how to distract them whenever it causes you anxiety and hopelessness. For this reason, it’s important to have someone you can talk to outside work — to breathe and redirect your thoughts.

Being well-informed about dementia can save you from unexpected situations. If the senior you care for suddenly loses an ability, panic won’t be your first response since you are fully aware that it could happen. Aside from that, it’s best to create a care plan that will be a home system to quickly fulfill your duties. Doing your homework is essential so you can do your best. But part of giving your all is allowing yourself to rest from time to time. If not, you are more susceptible to burnout, making you incapable of caring for someone else. Fill your cup first before pouring care and love unto others. You’ll only be able to work well if you are in excellent condition.

Lastly, it would help if you were nicer to yourself, especially when you feel like giving up. Being a caregiver is extremely exhausting, and no one will call you out if you’re tired. That’s a natural reaction, as humans are built with limitations. Taking care of an elderly person requires both your physical and mental prowess, which can truly drain the life out of you. Forgive yourself during the days that you don’t like what you’re doing. You may pause and then start again. Once you have established that mindset, you can survive being a caregiver. Most importantly, you’ll prioritize your survival and well-being for the sake of your loved one with dementia.

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