Q:  I am caring for my husband who has dementia and I am exhausted. How can I better take care of myself while caring for him?

A:  Caring for a loved one is a beautiful and loving thing to do, and it is also exhausting. It can be both things at one time and I appreciate that you are acknowledging this and looking for ways to support yourself.

Having a loved one with dementia often takes extra energy and attention as they require supervision as well as care. It is easy as a caregiver to forgot to take care of yourself in the process. Unfortunately, I have seen all too often that the family caregiver will fall ill because they have not been paying attention to their own health and emotional needs.

Start by thinking through your day and mapping out what parts cause the most stress. Often when we are busy or stressed, we are not creating a schedule that really works in the best way. Is there anyone you can ask to be part of your care team and help reduce the stressful aspects of your day? How often has someone asked what they can help you with, and you have told them “nothing?” Be prepared to let people help in a way that feels comfortable to you.

Make a list of what you need to do to take care of yourself. This should include routine doctor visits, exercise, social time and whatever else is important to you. Add them into your calendar and get support from friends, family or paid caregivers to allow you that time.

If you are struggling to find a way to do that, reach out for help. Attend a support group or meet with a care manager at one of our County’s Family Caregiver Resource Centers. You can find the one in your area at https://www.vcaaa.org/our-services/caregiver-services/

I cannot stress enough how vital it is that family caregivers like yourself find a way to ease some of your responsibilities so that you can find time for yourself.

For this reason, Senior Concerns is hosting their annual Caregiver Recognition Day Event with the theme “Six Ways To Take A Break When You Really Need One.” Working with family caregivers over the years, I often hear that many feel they cannot take a break or delegate care to anyone else. This program will help caregivers think outside of the box to examine different ways to reduce your load and, thus, reduce your stress.

Expert speakers will talk about six ways to take a break including emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, financial, and social. This program aims to uplift and thank family caregivers for their role, while providing some meaningful tips and tools.

The event is free and held over Zoom. You can register at https://www.seniorconcerns.org/caregiver-recognition-day/

Family caregivers are truly the backbone of our society. In California alone there are an estimated 1,120,000 family caregivers providing 881 million hours of unpaid care to their loved ones. You are part of a huge community. Reach out for support and know that you are not alone. Even if your loved one is unable to thank you for the love and care you provide them, we as a community can support you and appreciate all you do every day.

Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at mshapiro@seniorconcerns.org.

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