Caring full-time for a loved one with dementia at home is an enormously demanding commitment. Over time, the physical and emotional stress can easily lead to caregiver burnout if you don’t make self-care a priority.
Learning to recognize the common signs of burnout and utilising positive coping strategies can help you avoid becoming overwhelmed.
Watch Closely for Warning Signs:
Look out for increased anxiety, irritability, constant exhaustion, sleep issues, trouble concentrating, growing resentment, declining health, impatience with your loved one, and feeling completely helpless.
For example, Joan used to look forward to visiting her mom but now dreads it after months of providing dementia care.
Feeling constantly drained even after rest and neglecting your own needs are also red flags. Don’t ignore the symptoms.
Ask Others for Help with Caregiving Duties:
Don’t try to handle all caregiving tasks alone. Enlist family, friends, or professionals to provide periodic respite care.
Consider adult day programs or in-home care services a few times a week. Having regular breaks from care responsibilities prevents you from becoming overburdened and burned out.
Set Aside Time for Yourself:
Make self-care a top priority, not a luxury. Do relaxing activities like reading, meet friends for coffee, get daily exercise, eat nutritious meals, and don’t skimp on sleep.
Taking good care of yourself helps you be patient and engaged when caring for your loved one.
Adjust Your Mindset About Caregiving:
Focus on the positive reasons you chose caregiving, not the difficulties. Celebrate small victories like getting your mom to smile.
Remind yourself that dementia causes unfamiliar behaviours. Don’t dwell on the losses. Embrace what you can control and accept the rest.
Join an In-Person or Online Support Group:
Connect regularly with other dementia caregivers who understand your daily struggles. Share effective coping strategies and feel less isolated. Local or online support groups provide an invaluable lifeline for avoiding burnout.
Learn Stress Management Techniques:
Practice relaxation skills like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or restorative yoga. Journaling, listening to music, taking a walk outdoors, or watching a funny movie also helps relieve stress.
Avoid unhealthy coping behaviours like smoking, drinking excessively, or isolating yourself.
Get Help from Other Family Members:
Don’t expect others to automatically assist without being asked. Clearly communicate your needs and limitations as a caregiver.
Divide caregiving tasks equally among family whenever possible. Ask someone to check in on you regularly. Accept help graciously when offered.
Visit Your Doctor for Checkups:
Attend regular medical appointments and checkups. Inform your doctor about your caregiving role and any symptoms of stress.
Discuss any concerning mental health symptoms of depression or anxiety. Maintaining your overall health helps you better provide dementia care.
Make Time for Enjoyable Activities:
Make small daily pleasures like reading a novel, gardening, or knitting part of your routine. Pamper yourself occasionally with a massage or pedicure.
Laughter boosts your mood. Continue nurturing personal relationships and hobbies that bring you joy.
Prioritise Self-Care Above All:
Preventing caregiver burnout means putting your own well-being first at times.
With regular respite breaks, stress management, family support, medical care, and consistent self-care, you can avoid becoming overwhelmed.
Caring full-time for someone with dementia poses enormous risks of chronic stress and burnout. Watch closely for warning signs and be proactive about managing stress.
With proper coping strategies and prioritising self-care, you can be the best caregiver possible while maintaining your health.