Maintaining a caregiving role is never easy, but being a caregiver for someone with dementia can pose a unique set of challenges. It’s vital for anyone, including caregivers, to care for their mental health in the best way they can. So, how can you support your mental health while in a caregiving role?
What Is Dementia?
The CDC defines dementia by saying, “Dementia is not a specific disease but rather a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Though dementia mostly affects older adults, it is not a part of normal aging.” It is not the same as typical forgetfulness, and if you are a caregiver for someone with dementia, you know how heartbreaking it can be to watch someone live with. The person you’re caring for may forget crucial information and say hurtful things as a result of their condition. It’s no fault of their own, and it can feel helpless and painful.
What Challenges Do Caregivers Face?
On top of a hectic schedule and a high number of demands, potentially both inside and outside of their caregiving role, caregivers are at a higher risk for certain negative mental and physical health implications. Research on caregiving and caregivers as a whole shows that caregiving is linked to high levels of stress, trouble sleeping, increased symptoms of depression and anxiety, feelings of guilt, and a number of physical health concerns, such as an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Caregivers for those with dementia specifically are said to risk facing mental health implications at a higher level. So, what can you do? Thankfully, there are answers.
How To Support Your Mental Health As A Caregiver For A Loved One With Dementia
Here are some things you can do to support your mental health as a caregiver for a loved one with dementia:
- Look for respite care.
Respite care refers to temporary caregiving services. It’s important to know where to find respite care when you need it. It’s okay to use respite care services for your mental health. You are allowed to take a break.
- Maintain time for yourself.
Caregivers have a tendency to work long hours, whether they are unpaid or paid caregivers. It’s crucial that you have time for yourself that is unaffiliated with your caregiving tasks or any other responsibilities you have. Do something that you enjoy that supports your well-being, such as spending time in nature, physical activity, talking with friends, reading, or something else.
- Keep a strong support system.
Research shows that a strong support system leads to better mental and physical health outcomes. A positive support system can help you cope with stress, lower scores of depression and anxiety, and even live longer. Make sure that you’re spending time with those close to you, and if you don’t currently have social support, consider joining a support group or meeting new people through another avenue of your choice.
- Use coping skills.
Caregiving comes with hard days and a lot of feelings. Thought reframe, breathing exercises, journaling, and any other coping skills that are most relevant for you will all come in handy. If you’re having trouble finding the coping skills that work best for you, don’t be afraid to talk to a counselor or therapist who can help.
- Ration duties if possible.
Many caregivers share their duties with someone else, though this is not always the case. If you are the dominant caregiver and need a break, or if you need to re-distribute your duties long-term, it’s important to open up and talk with anyone else who is helping or might be able to help provide care, such as another family member or loved one of the person you’re providing care for.
- Ask for help.
In addition to asking for tangible help in the form of respite care or assistance from others with caregiving, we all need someone to talk to. Mental health therapy is an excellent option for those facing stress related to caregiving and anything else that’s going on in life. In therapy, you can express and work through your emotions, find coping skills that work for you, and more.
Find A Therapist
Whether you’re struggling with difficulties related to caregiving, a mental health condition, or something else that’s on your mind, seeing a therapist can help. There are many different ways to find a therapist. You can search the web, look for low-cost services in your area, ask your doctor for a referral, utilize low-income resources in your area, or sign up for a reputable online therapy platform like BetterHelp. Online therapy is often more affordable than traditional in-person mental health services are without insurance, and it’s a fantastic way to access a wide range of providers licensed in your state. Regardless of how you find a therapist, you deserve to get the support you need. Don’t hesitate to take the first step and reach out or sign up today.