My friend is caring for her husband who has dementia and I can see she is feeling stressed. How can I help and support her?
Caregiving for a loved one with dementia can be an incredibly rewarding role, and yet we also know it can be a very stressful experience. The stresses of caring for someone with dementia can be unique and challenging. Your friend is fortunate to have you to support her.
The prevalence of depression in caregivers of people with dementia is more than twice the rate of the general population. Caregiving can take its toll both emotionally and physically. When there is dementia, the caregiver must be vigilant at all times, supervising and assisting their loved one. The person with dementia may experience personality and behavior changes that can add to the difficulty for a family member.
Often, the caregiver will cancel or delay their own doctors’ appointments and stop doing the activities they enjoyed because they are consumed by their caregiving role. Helping the caregiver value their own self care is important. If the caregiver burns out or gets sick, then they will not be able to provide the care to their loved that is needed.
It is possible that your friend may deny needing or accepting help. They may be unable to even imagine how anyone could come and help in their situation or what help might even look like. However, you can make specific offers and suggestions that may be useful.
Social support to a caregiver is one of the best things you can offer. Bring over their favorite beverage and be a listening ear. Let them know it’s okay to talk about anything with you and that you want to be there to support them. Suggest they attend a caregiver support group and bring a list of local groups. You can find a list on the Alzheimer’s Association website or by calling the Ventura County chapter at 805- 261-2189.
Education on dementia can be another helpful way to reduce caregiver stress. Understanding the symptoms, causes and behaviors can strengthen a caregiver’s self-efficacy. There are many classes offered in the community and your friend may feel too overwhelmed to do the research. You can contact your local Family Caregiver Resource Center to see what classes and services they offer. The Ventura County Area Agency on Aging can direct you to the Caregiver Resource Center for your area. Call them at 805-477-7300.
Caregivers can benefit from respite. This means giving them time off from any task. Most commonly we think of respite as having someone else spend time caring for the person with dementia. This can be a caregiver in the home or at an Adult Day Program. Respite can also mean taking any task off the caregiver’s plate. You may be comfortable providing respite care for your friend by staying with their loved one while they have time to themselves. Or you might offer to take on another task for your friend, such as doing errands or household tasks.
Offer what you feel comfortable with, but be specific and clear with your friend. It may be difficult for your friend to accept help so be mindful about how you offer it. Frame it in a kind and gentle way so your friend does not feel that you are criticizing the job she is doing.
Always come from a place of caring and your friend will appreciate it. Caregiving for a person with dementia is like running a marathon. It’s a long journey and support and breaks will be needed along the way. Be there for your friend now and in the future as they navigate this journey.
Martha Shapiro can reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wed., February 12th, 12:30-2:30pm: Ventura County Parkinson’s Disease Support Group at Ventura City Hall; 501 Poli Street, Community Meeting Room #202. The Ventura Parkinson’s Disease Support Group welcomes the public along with those who find themselves navigating the challenges of Parkinson’s Disease and other neurological conditions. For more information and detailed directions to our meetings, please call Patty at 805-766-6070.
Mondays through Fridays 8:30am – 4:00pm: Free Income Tax Preparation by the Conejo Senior Volunteer Program (CSVP) at the Conejo Creek South Community Room, 1350 E. Janss Rd. Thousand Oaks. This service is available for seniors 60 years of age or older (any income level) or persons with an income of $56,000 or less, regardless of age. No appointments, first come, first served. For more information call 805-381-2742. Runs through April 15th.