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Perhaps, it’s stating the obvious but caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia is challenging, difficult, confusing, heart breaking and stretches your tolerance, patience and love to breaking point. In fact, handling a dementia patient takes fortitude, information, love and care, it’s equally important for the caregiver to look after himself or herself in the process.

Dementia sufferers need 24/7 care 

During the early stages, the sufferer is alert and aware enough to realize that the iron bars of this disease, that imprisons the mind and body, will never let go. Most frighteningly, they will wander…out of the house, into the street. No matter the time of day or night. The physical and mental toll on the caregiver is unrelenting.

So, how do you go about making things less stressful for your self and your loved one?

  • Calm down angry and frustrated patients by looking him or her directly in the eye, with a reassuring touch or smile to show your compassion.
  • Don’t take behavioural problems personally.
  • Always maintain your sense of humour.
  • Control restiveness by regular exercise or other physical activities.
  • Minimise noise levels and confusion – turn off the TV, draw the curtains and ensure a quiet atmosphere.
  • If your loved one has a tendency to wander, ensure he or she is wearing an ID bracelet with a GPS chip.
  • Limit consumption of caffeine, sugar, junk food during his/her waking hours.
  • Use simple words and short sentences, speak in a calm and gentle voice.
  • Wait for your loved one to respond while talking to him or her. Don’t interrupt while he/she is talking.
  • Always speak in a positive tone of voice.

How to better look after yourself?

  • Introduce some of the tips given here, to make your life more stress free, emotionally and mentally less draining…all of which will help you be a better caregiver.
  • Take a break from caregiving. Leave the house to meet a friend, go to the movies or for lunch with a friend. Take time off without feeling guilty.
  • Get help with caregiving tasks like bathing, feeding and cooking meals.
  • Get some exercise. Even short 20 minute bursts will be wonderful for your physical and mental health. Walk three times a week for 10 minutes.
  • Make an appointment for a physical check-up. Attend to your own healthcare needs.
  • Take a half-hour break once every day. Participate in pleasant, nurturing activities, such as reading a good book, taking a warm bath.
  • Eat healthy. Don’t snack on junk food. Get proper rest and nutrition.
  • Learn to use stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation, prayer, yoga and Tai Chi.
  • Take up a new activity that will keep your mind engaged, even while at home.

To sum up, there are myriad things you can do to make life happier, healthier and easier on yourself and your loved one. Seek sympathetic counselling when you need it, or talk to a trusted counsellor, friend, or another family member about your feelings. Identify and acknowledge your feelings, you have a right to ALL of them. Most importantly, take care of yourself.

BY THIYAGARAJAN VELAYUTHAM, FOUNDER, IHHC | 1ST FEBRUARY, 2019

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