Caring for a loved one with memory loss can be very rewarding. You’ll provide the care that allows them to face their journey with love and dignity. Caregiving can also be all-consuming and stressful, and the weight of their life and yours bears down on your shoulders. Caregivers of loved ones with memory loss juggle a lot in a role that requires balance, patience, and grace as their guide.
What you can Do for YOU
Cognitive and other memory impairments change the way a person thinks, acts, and feels. Those with more advanced impairment often require daily care of basic personal, financial, and health needs. Caregivers also need to learn how to communicate in a way that is clear and deal with challenging behavior. You want to do your best for them, but you need to take care of yourself and your emotions first. Things to remember for the emotional aspect of caregiving:
- Accept– Accept THIS version of your loved one. Memories are powerful and precious, but learn to let go of who they were, so you can embrace who they are now.
- Recognize– Your feelings of inadequacy, exhaustion, and grief are normal.
- Get Help– There are many support groups and online tips, and resources for memory loss caregiving. Get help before you are hopeless, and practice self-care. Information is powerful.
What you can Do for Your Loved One
Feeling alone and unprepared is normal for caregivers. Whether you suddenly found yourself in this role or was eased into it, everyone can get overwhelmed. Each caregiving journey is different, but here are some basic guidelines to make sure you cover all the bases.
- Words Matter: Things that are said to your loved one out of concern or frustration can rob them of their dignity. Support them with positive reinforcement and praise them when they do something well.
- Legal: Make sure you have the legal documents needed in place to carry out your loved one’s wishes and assist with financial decisions.
- Care Plan: Each neurological disorder that affects memory requires different levels of care. Each plan should cover the following:
- Personal care
- Household care
- Health care
- Emotional care
- Safety Supervision
- Know the Signs: Know when it’s time to consider 24-7 care or a long term care facility.
The challenges of caregiving will be trying at times. Yet, amongst the hard parts, there will also be priceless lessons. Ones of forgiveness, compassion, and courage that help turn hardships into hope allowing us to heal.
Clinical research continues moving ever closer to curing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurological disorders. If you or a loved one has memory issues related to a neurological condition like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, research studies may be an option. Clinical research volunteers contribute to a better understanding of these conditions. The information learned is then used to design improved ways to detect, treat, and prevent these conditions.