Populations are ageing right before our eyes, and dementia cases are rising too. Alzheimer’s Research UK foresees that 152 million people will be living with dementia by 2050.
While families or friends might be thrust into positions as informal carers, others may opt to hire a professional caregiver. As its a condition which worsens with time, those living with dementia will need someone to not only help them accomplish their day-to-day tasks, but also continue to find meaning in their lives.
Whether informal or professional, caregivers need to be looked out for too. In our post, Who’s Caring for YOU? 5 Ways to Beat Carer Loneliness, we discuss the toll caring for someone with dementia can take on your own loneliness. While these are self-directed remedies, there are a number of ways families of people with dementia can also support their caregivers.
Caring for the carers
The demands of a caregiver’s role can affect their mental health when there are no interventions. Often, their job is 24/7 which can lead to burnout. Their world also becomes much smaller as it’s dedicated to their patient; making them form attachments and watching their grief unfold firsthand. Therefore, caregivers are more prone to developing chronic stress, depression, or substance abuse. Maryville University points out the importance of having a deep understanding of contemporary psychology combined with practical experience in order to excel at any role. Despite knowing the difficulties of their own job, actual praxis can take a toll on them in ways that they least expect. Families must learn the value of balancing theory and practice to ensure a carer’s wellbeing.
Geriatric psychiatrist Helen Kales has developed a behavioural approach for dementia care. This puts the caregiver first and gives them as much training and support similarly given to the person living with the condition. This model lets caregivers find new solutions to old problems, while simultaneously addressing their own needs with those of their patients. Results have shown that this eases patients’ experiences as well as a caregivers’ own burdens. Shifting to a behavioural approach dispels the notion that dementia is a memory problem, thus equipping caregivers with the tools to spot triggers and circumvent around them in order to problem-solve. In effect, caregivers can also find joy in successfully managing to address their patient’s needs, which is undoubtedly rewarding.
Encouraging your caregiver to attend a support group could make a huge difference to their wellbeing. Given the isolation that can comes with the job, it’s good to encourage your caregiver to be with like-minded individuals so that they don’t feel so alone. They may not even realise how much they need to freely express what they are feeling and be reminded of their purpose as caregivers.
As there is no current cure for dementia, families must do what they can to look out for those who have painstakingly and selflessly cared for their loved ones. The key thing to remember is that you’re all in it together.
Written by Queen De Marco