How To Avoid Carer's Fatigue When Caring For Someone With Dementia

Caring for someone with dementia can sometimes feel like a round-the-clock job. But nobody can look after someone all day, every day. Here, we explore why caring for yourself helps everyone.

17/12/2020

Caring for someone with dementia can sometimes feel like a round-the-clock job. But nobody can look after someone all day, every day. Here, we explore why caring for yourself helps everyone.

If you’ve ever sat on a plane, you’ll remember the safety guidance around oxygen masks: put yours on first, before trying to help anyone else. Because if you look after yourself, you’re always in a much better place to care for others.

But it’s so, so easy to forget that when you’re looking after a loved one who’s living with dementia. The risk of carer’s burnout is very real – and the impact that can have on your life and relationships – with the person you’re caring for, as well as with others – can undermine everything you’re trying to achieve.

Thankfully, there are many ways to avoid carer burnout. If that’s something you’re concerned about – either for yourself, or someone in your family – then read on.

Our Tips for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregivers

Accept the situation

The first real step to making any lasting positive change is often in seeing the situation for what it is. In fact, for some carers, even seeing themselves as a carer can be a challenge!

That’s echoed by Admiral Nurse Barbara Fitzpatrick, speaking on a video published by Dementia UK. “You may not think of yourself as a carer because you’re looking after a member of your family” she says. “But it’s important for it to be acknowledged that you are a carer. Being acknowledged means that the support and help you need can be provided.”

Acknowledge your feelings

As a carer, it’s easy to set an impossibly high standard for the care you want to offer your loved one – then feel guilty on the days you don’t quite reach it. It can be even worse if the reason for it is because you found yourself feeling sad, frustrated, angry – or even a little hopeless. Which of course, can then lead to more guilt for feeling that way!

It’s important to recognise that these are all normal ways to feel. Caring is such an intensive job, and you’re only human. Your loved one didn’t ask to get dementia – but you didn’t ask to be living with it either. You’re doing the best you can. Be kind to yourself.

Focus on you

It may sound counterproductive– especially when the responsibility for someone else falls squarely on your shoulders, and your inclination is to just care more, better, and faster. But one of the best ways to avoid carer burnout is to put energy into your life away from caring – whether that’s hobbies, projects, or your other important relationships.

The more you prioritise your own needs when you’re able to, the better you’re sure to feel about yourself. After you start down that path, you’ll find you feel more emotionally equipped to deal with the mood swings, conflicts and confusion that are part and parcel of living with someone who has dementia.

Not sure where to start? Try a tool called The Wheel of Life. 

It’s a simple one-page exercise that Life Coaches often give clients. Use it to get an overview of the different aspects that make up your life, and start deciding where to direct your focus and energy.

Live healthy

The basics of self-care are so important when dealing with stress – and being a dementia carer is certainly stressful! Eating three nutritious meals a day and getting 7-8 hours sleep can make such a difference. Additionally, even 20-30 minutes light exercise – like a brisk walk, or an online yoga class – can add enormously to your energy levels.

One tip: try not to bite off too much at once. The more gradually you make these changes to your daily life, the more sustainable you’ll find them in the long run.

Be creative

Dealing with the impact of dementia day-to-day can steal the joy from the time you spend with your loved one. However, a little creative thinking can not only help you reconnect with them, but it can reconnect you both to some of your favourite shared memories.

Whether you fish out a favourite music album; go for a short walk in a favourite place; flick through old photos; or watch an old movie with them – there are always ways to make the most of your time with the person you’re caring for. 

Find some support

Seeking support is one of the best ways to prevent caregiver burnout.

In terms of lightening the mental load, the Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline offers advice and support. You’ll find them, free of charge, on 0800 888 6678. Or visit Dementia UK to learn more.

Of course, if your loved one’s condition deteriorates further, you may decide it’s time for a different approach. We offer a number of different services to suit every need. These include both live-in care, and high-quality domiciliary care which can be tailored to your situation. We also offer Companionship care - one of our most requested services, which sees our care assistants help to keep your loved one socially engaged. 

Whatever your situation, we have a service that can offer you a much-needed respite.

Not sure what type of support is right for you? Check out this post on the differences between care homes and live-in care, or contact us now to see how we can help.