Tips for Caregivers of Elderly Loved Ones

Caring for a loved one with dementia caused by Alzheimer’s, stroke, or even “cancer brain” requires special caregiving skills. The challenge becomes especially great (and painful) when a cognitively impaired loved one loses the ability to recognize a long-time spouse, child, or other family member.

The eight tips below will make your caregiving experience easier.

  1. Learn about your loved one’s disease so you know what to expect. Breaking down tasks into single easy-to-comprehend steps helps people with dementia to succeed. If your loved one constantly repeats a question, answer it as if this is the first time it is asked. If s/he honestly remembered the answer, s/he would not ask the question repeatedly.
  2. Attend support group meetings or participate online. Ask questions even if you think you know the answer. You’re not alone. Others are walking the same road. Together you will learn better ways of caregiving.
  3. Make direct eye contact then address your loved one where s/he is. If happy, smile and greet with enthusiasm. If solemn, speak in a lower and more calming tone. Touch and give a hug, if appropriate.
  4. It’s okay to get frustrated and even angry. Find an appropriate outlet for your feelings. Try to exercise or call a fellow caregiver. At the very least, STOP and take a deep breath. Remember why you became a caregiver in the first place.
  5. LAUGH. Find the JOY in the smallest things. SMILE.
  6. Seek respite, if even for five minutes. Martyrs are not heroes. NEVER say, “NEVER.” Making promises when you really can’t know the full scope of what you’re getting into is unfair to you and your loved one. Consider your options—adult day care, in-home care, board and care, assisted living and skilled nursing care.
  7. Seek competent professional advice regarding legal, financial, and health care matters. Then talk with someone you trust about the advice you receive. Have all your questions answered before you sign anything.
  8. Most importantly, care for your loved one the way you want to be treated, if you needed care for this same disease.

These eight TIPS for Caregivers will ensure you survive, thrive, and even find the joy in caregiving if you learn as much as you can about the disease, how to communicate, deal with anger, take respite, and seek help while considering your options.

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