Putting yourself on pins and needles because of worry isn’t healthy! It is impossible to stop questioning yourself. There will always be a panic among caregivers about whether the job they’re doing is sufficient. It’s not a science; learn from your mistakes. Each person living with dementia is unique.
The process of caring for someone with memory loss can be exhausting and emotionally draining. When you’re about to hit the wall, you’ll know. Avoid arguing with yourself. Find a way to take a break instead of letting everything overwhelm you. Please take advantage of every opportunity to get away, as few as they are.
Social life will dwindle for caregivers. Having learned my lesson from hard knocks, I can tell you that my telephone virtually stopped ringing. At that point, I was about to contact “Ma Bell” to see if I had technical difficulties.
In the long run, friends from the past will cease calling you after repeatedly declining your invitations to attend gatherings or evenings at the movies. Even well-meaning people can be put off because you cannot leave your loved one alone. A woman told me recently, “Sometimes it’s like babysitting a 16-armed octopus. You can’t leave them alone for a minute.”
Caregiving has never been an everyday hardship for the general population, so they have no concept of how many sacrifices are required.
You keep telling yourself that your old friends are just on hold while you are caring for your loved one. After the passing of my father and mother from dementia-related diseases, I have discovered that only the most sincere and faithful friendships have survived.
Conversely, you may find an upside to human relationships, which is becoming acquainted with other caregivers on the same path as you. There may be more value and empowerment in the support and passion of these strong individuals than the companions you once knew.
Social isolation is a high-risk factor for developing depression. This is just one of the reasons you should try to maintain somewhat socially active. Whether it’s through Zoom meetings or staying in touch with friends on social media, phone calls, or even the old-fashioned U.S. Mail, it is vital to have some form of communication with the outside world. I highly recommend attending a support group in your area.
Sometimes, I would realize I hadn’t left the property for three weeks while caring for my father. The barber shop was not only a blessing but became a major social event as well!
Learn to cherish the ones that lend you an ear, even if only for a few minutes. Keep an open mind to the unforeseen new friendships you may encounter. There is something special about socializing with a colleague in the same boat as you. Try not to worry about the friends that have slowly slipped away. This demanding journey of caregiving may take your life in a different direction. The endurance and strength required is tremendous. You must reach deep inside yourself and pull that endurance out. It’s in there, believe me.
Gary Joseph LeBlanc
Dementia Spotlight Foundation