Question: How do you handle the slow progression of dementia?
Dr. Amy: Caring for a loved one with dementia, and witnessing the slow but steady decline, can be heart wrenching. You may feel a lot of different emotions, depending on the day and how your loved one is doing. You may feel grief, sadness, and loss for what is slipping away. You may feel hurt, frustration, anger because of the way your loved one behaves sometimes. And you may feel overwhelmed by how much things have changed and how much there is to do.
As a caregiver, it is important that you educate yourself as much as possible about dementia, so that you can better understand what’s going on when you see certain behaviors, and so that you can develop strategies for the long term. I’d like to refer you to three excellent resources.
At the same time, it’s essential that you take care of yourself, so that you can continue to support your loved one over the course of this disease. Caring for someone with dementia is a marathon not a sprint. You need to attend to your own physical and mental health, pay attention to your diet, and get enough sleep. Many people find meditating or doing yoga helps them deal with the added stress. Making time for yourself can be easier said than done, I know, but it is a priority. I encourage you to consider joining a support group, and getting help organized while your load is still manageable. Your local hospital can help you understand the resources that are available in and around your community. A geriatric care manager is also an invaluable place to start. I wish you all the best on your caregiving journey.
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