Living with dementia is extremely tough and if you’ve taken care of the person and managed to look after yourself in the process, then you’ve done a great job. It’s taught me many valuable life lessons. Caring for my mum has made me more patient and less selfish, and I now value health and happiness above career and money. Even though she doesn’t know it, my mum has continued to inspire me and help me understand what really matters.
As you continue to provide care for your loved one, here’s a final checklist of some key points to remember:
- You can’t do it all on your own – get help and make sure it’s reliable help. You need people you can count on
- The person’s moods can change quickly – remember it’s not likely to be personal if the person with dementia makes nasty comments or becomes aggressive
- Be prepared to repeat yourself – get used to repeating things, as the person may be unable to remember recent events or conversations
- Use distraction techniques – if the person is becoming agitated or frustrated, change the subject
- Don’t mention bereavements – if the person asks where their deceased relatives are, don’t say they’ve died, or they will grieve all over again. Distraction techniques may help
- Routine is important – a change of routine or environment can be very confusing for the person with dementia, so try to stick to their usual routine as much as you can and spend time in familiar surroundings
- Keep an eye on their health – if you notice a significant deterioration in their condition, seek medical help and start to plan for how you will continue to meet their needs in future
- Be in a good place – when you visit the person with dementia, make sure you’re in a good place mentally. You have no idea what mood they will be in when you arrive, so if you can, avoid visiting the person when you’re overly tired or stressed
- Look after yourself – take care of your own health for the benefit of both of you.
- Know when to enlist 24-hour care – there will come a time when the person can’t live alone anymore, or their needs may be too complex and consistent for them to be able to live with you, as you still need to juggle work or your own family commitments with being a carer. Know when to take the drastic but often crucial step of seeking out the right care or nursing home for your loved one. You may feel guilty but you’ve done the best you can and you have to put the person’s safety and needs first.