Caring for a loved one can bring with it feelings of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. These things combined with the significant change to how your life is now as opposed to the life you had imagined together.
A study in Ireland reported that two out of every five people caring for a spouse with dementia suffer from some form of clinically significant depression. The same study also found that another 40% of carers reported levels of depressive symptoms which were not clinically significant.
There are many reasons for this including:
- the significant changes to your lifestyle possibly including leaving paid work;
- the constant nature of caring for someone living with dementia; feelings of guilt;
- concern over your ability to care for your loved one long term;
- guilt and grief around choosing to place your loved one in a care facility.
In addition to this there is more support for people to live in the community with their spouse or support from family and friends. And whilst this is a positive thing it does also place more pressure on family caregivers, which in effect can contribute to the rising rates of depression in carers.
Looking after yourself as a caregiver
Here are some tips on caring for yourself as you care for your loved one living with dementia.
Physical and emotional health
Ensure that you keep on top of your own physical and emotional health. If you are feeling down that is ok, when it lasts for an extended period of time or you no longer get pleasure out of things you would previously enjoy or you find yourself isolating yourself socially it is probably time to head to the GP and discuss your feelings.
Make sure that you are getting good quality sleep and have good sleep habits. This is not always easy when you are caring for a loved one living with dementia.
Fresh air and sunshine
Try to get outside and get some fresh air. This is important for your mental health and also to assist with good sleep habits.
We need a little bit of sunshine in the mornings to tell our brains when to release the sleep chemicals. If you are feeling a bit down go for a walk, have a change in scenery it could make all the difference.
This of course is not always possible, sometimes a quiet cuppa in the garden will be all you can manage and be enough.
Plan breaks or respite
Take time out if you can. Look into day care options in your local area to see if there is an option for a regular break. This is important for you.
Maintain social connections
Stay in contact with your friends this is so important to have your own support through the caring journey.
If your friends perhaps don’t understand Dementia Australia have a list of support groups on their website investigate one of those if you feel up to it. Sometimes it is nice to share with others on a similar journey.
Most importantly talk to those around you so that you can get the support you need and that you are not alone.