When we first discover that we’re to be a dementia carer, we often do a lot of research into the condition. We check out the best practice and how we can help our loved one; what musical or memory stimulating activities they can attend; how we can help to try to preserve their precious memories and so on. And that’s really important. But even at this early stage we’ve forgotten about looking after ourselves – in fact it probably doesn’t even occur to us! After all, we’re not the one with the condition. We don’t have a problem, do we?
It’s essential to realise at this early stage that whilst it’s our loved one who has dementia, we too have the seed of a problem. Because as the dementia progresses in our loved one, so it seems to take a greater and greater grip on our own lives – forcing us to focus more and more on our loved one. We give up our clubs, societies and hobbies because we “don’t have time”, and as these things drop by the wayside, so do the friends who enliven and enhance our lives.
So whilst this site is all about you, this section is unashamedly to help you to concentrate on your own pleasures and wellbeing. To be the best carer that you can possibly be, it’s essential that you really prioritise and nurture your own friendships and activities so that you can return to your caring role after two or three hours, refreshed and ready to face the challenges ahead.
Our “Managing Expectations” section encourages you to talk to your loved one’s friends and also to friends of yours who may came to sit with your loved one while you go out. Friends often drop away because they feel awkward and don’t know what to do or say. So some guidance that they don’t have to say anything and that their presence will be enough to reassure your loved one may be the thing that makes them feel more comfortable. And knowing that they don’t have to take you’re loved one to the toilet (assuming that they’re wearing some incontinence protection and have been toiletted just before the friend’s arrival) may allay another fear. If your friends feel that they’re valued, informed and supported, they’re far more likely to help then if they feel that they’re stepping into the scary place of the unknown.