“I just need a moment to myself.”
“I want the best for him, but I’m so tired.”
“I worry all the time.”
Caring for a loved one with memory loss is a full-time job. It requires constantly monitoring their health, nutrition, medication, and safety. It is valuable, fulfilling work, but it’s also physically and emotionally exhausting. The effects on caregivers are well-documented, and studies show that primary caregiving often leads to stress, fatigue, and depression. Diva Givens, the regional outreach manager for two memory care communities in Arizona, says that trying to care for your loved one at home is like trying to be a personal nurse, housekeeper, chef, maintenance team, personal helper, and activity planner for your loved one every day, 24 hours each day.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, last year more than 16 million family members and other unpaid assistants cared for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, providing nearly 18.6 billion hours of care. Each situation is unique, but some of the reasons families choose to provide in-family care include limited finances and the desire to provide at home, personal comfort. There are options available to make sure that you and your loved one receive the care and support you both need.
Under normal circumstances, taking care of a loved one with memory loss can be challenging. But with the risks COVID-19 poses to seniors, the past six months have been especially taxing for care providers. Routine tasks like grocery store trips and doctor’s appointments are more difficult than ever. Many things that used to offer relief have been canceled or may be risky for health reasons: outings such as visiting friends or going to church, community center classes or rehabilitation clinics, and concerts or park visits. Even when going out in public is an option, having to wear a mask can be confusing and agitating for those with memory loss. This additional stress and burden can lead to burnout for caregivers, leaving them feeling like they have nowhere to turn.
So what can caregivers do to prevent and manage burnout? First, make sure you have a network of help. Dementia care requires a team. Whether family members, neighbors, licensed care providers or specialists, find people who can help support you and your loved one. Online support groups can help connect you to people in the same situation.
Second, find ways to manage stress. Listen to music, bake your favorite food, enjoy sitting outside, or meditate. Find something you can do every day at home that brings you joy. Take a break from the news and focus on the good around you. Involve your loved one in some sensory experiences like taking a drive to see fall foliage, looking at artwork, or playing with seashells. And when you’re feeling overwhelmed, call on your support network. Teresa Cain, the admissions director at Spring Gardens Senior Living in Mapleton, Utah, says the best advice she can give to caregivers is to take a break. She says caregivers should consider respite care, which is a short-term stay when a caregiver needs a break or will be out of town. Residents get to enjoy all of the benefits of the community without making a long-term decision. “You don’t have to commit to forever,” says Teresa. “Come in for a trial.” Often residents choose to stay after enjoying the engaging activities, social interaction, and delicious meals.
Even when doing these things, caregivers may still experience burnout. Having a degenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s generally means your loved one is going to get progressively worse, and you’re both going to need more assistance along the way. But there’s hope and help. Memory care communities can provide information, support, and care for your loved one when you’re ready for it. According to Diva Givens, “A memory care community is a safe haven for those who are losing the ability to care for themselves, and it is also a haven for families who are stretched to the limit in how to give the best support to someone with dementia.”
Avista Senior Living offers memory care in many of our communities. Some of our communities even offer a cutting-edge Alzheimer’s and dementia treatment program designed to actually improve cognitive functioning. Based on the work of Dr. Dale Bredesen, The Enhance Protocol addresses the underlying causes that are contributing to cognitive decline. This program offers help, health, and a pathway to hope.
Getting the assistance you need for your family member with dementia is possible, even during a pandemic. Avista Senior Living communities have put in place strict COVID-19 guidelines to help protect their residents. These policies and procedures have allowed us to accept new residents even during the pandemic. We know that families are struggling under the pressure of 24-hour caregiving without relief. Having expert care and support for your loved one may be just the help you need. “We can provide quality of life and expert professional care in every facet of living with dementia,” says Diva. “We are the answer to, ‘Who can help?’”
Every day at Avista Senior Living, we see first hand how families struggle with the decision to care for their loved ones with dementia. Teresa says that families are so much more stressed than in the past. When they finally decide to look into assisted living care options, they are at the end of their rope. They often comment that they wish they had made the decision long before.
Our spacious, beautiful communities offer the very best care for all of our residents, and our memory care areas are specifically designed to meet the unique needs of those with dementia. Our staff goes above and beyond to make sure that our residents are happy and healthy. We can provide the support you and your loved one need at this time. As Diva puts it, “When a family member has dementia, it affects the whole family. Avista understands that and gives support to all family members as they traverse the dementia disease journey. You are not alone.”
We understand that you have been carrying a heavy load. And we recognize that this isn’t an easy decision. We want you to know that you don’t have to walk this road alone. We are here with valuable resources when you need them. If you’re caring for a loved one, especially during COVID, don’t forget to take care of yourself! And if you’re ready for a partner in caring for your loved one, please reach out to us today.