LOOK AFTER YOURSELF CARING FOR A RELATIVE WITH DEMENTIA: A STRATEGY FOR CARING FOR YOURSELF
Probably the most important thing that you can do is to share your problems. This means not only the physically demanding tasks that are thrust upon you and with which others may be able to help, but also your own emotional responses. Remember that if they are turned inwards they can be very destructive and that it is not until you appreciate that they are a natural response to the predicament you are in that you will be able to come to terms with them.
The next most important thing is to make time for yourself. You are still you. Make use of whatever resources are available to enable you to have some time with family and friends, to go out and enjoy yourself occasionally, and to keep up a pastime or two. Keeping your batteries charged will enable you to cope more effectively and probably for longer, so that the person you are looking after will benefit in the long run just as much as you. If you need longer or more regular breaks, it is important to explore not only day care and sitting-in services, but also whatever forms of intermittent relief are available in your district. Your general practitioner should be able to help with this. It is very important that you do not allow yourself to become isolated.
Plan ahead for problems that may well not occur, but which could crop up, including your own illness and even death. If you do become indisposed, at least you won't have to worry quite so much because you will know that matters should be in hand.
Try to accept support from others even if you don't want to trouble your relatives and friends. Many of them will wish to help you and may in their own turn feel rejected if you keep them away.
You need to identify your own warning signals. Most people will come to realize how much they can take without reaching their own breaking-point. Try to ensure that you take some action if you feel things are getting this bad, in order to avoid a crisis.
If you find your relationships with friends and family deteriorating, don't blame them or yourself, but try to think carefully about what is going on and discuss the problem with them. They too may need help in understanding what is really at the root of the breakdown in your relationship. Remember that 'united you stand, divided you fall' and that this has a bearing not only on those directly involved but also on the person being cared for.
Take advice and seek support about the changing role that you will most certainly find yourself in.
Remember also that you are probably the single most important person in the life of the sufferer and without you, he or she may well be lost. It is therefore not only for your own benefit that you must try to look after yourself.