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Staying Sane When Caring for a Loved One who has Dementia

A loved one’s struggle with dementia can be heartbreaking and stressful. Here are a few things I’ve learned that’s helped me cope with caring for my mother.

After several years of weird but progressing symptoms, my mother was diagnosed in the summer of 2013 with dementia.

In the beginning, I found it quite frustrating, even maddening at times trying to care for her. It’s hard to live with someone who forgets what you tell them and what they’ve told you. Even basic everyday tasks can become a source of contention when you’re caring for someone with dementia.

Through trial and error (and a whole lot of prayer), I’ve learned how to better cope with the stresses that come with my mother’s dementia.

If you’ve never been in a situation like this, it can be hard to know what to do and expect. I want to share what I’ve observed and learned in an effort to help others who may be dealing with similar situations.

Realize it’s Not all About What You’re Going Through

The classic line, “put yourself in their shoes,” takes on a whole new meaning when you’re a caregiver.

Footprints in sandSometimes when we feel life gets tough, our focus tends to shift onto ourselves and “how bad this is on me.” When dealing with a parent or grandparent who has dementia, or any progressive disease for that matter, I think it’s important to understand what your loved one is going through. Changing your thought pattern from “me” to “you” is key in dealing with caregiving.

We’ve all walked into a room and forgotten what we went in there for. It’s annoying to say the least. I think that is what dementia patients go through, but on a much larger scale. How scary would it be to forget basic everyday knowledge, and your family members become short tempered with you because of it?

How frustrating and how frightening it must be to have everyone in your life insist you said this or did this but have no memory of it!

When my mother was first diagnosed, all I could see was how hard it was going to be on me to care for her as her disease progressed. Since then, however, I have tried hard to put myself in her situation.  What I’ve discovered is, if it’s difficult for me to deal with her illness, it is only a fraction of how horrible it must be to actually live it.

I think coming to this conclusion has helped me empathize with my mother and kept both mine and my mother’s frustration level down to a minimum.

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Pick and Choose your Battles Wisely

Focus on what’s important, not little things that don’t amount to anything.

Sometimes, even though we may know that our loved ones don’t mean to be difficult, tempers can get short. Little tasks, such as washing the dishes or even paying bills can result in a full-blown argument.

At times like these, it’s important to learn what’s worth fighting over and what’s worth letting go. Our parents and grandparents deserve nothing but the highest respect, so we should only argue over the issues that really matter.

Things like not turning off lights, misplacing mail, or leaving food out in the kitchen used to drive me bonkers, and I’d argue with my mother about it. However, I’ve learned to just accept these little aggravations as it’s just life. It’s not really important in the grand scheme of things.

Don’t get into a power struggle with your loved one.

However, one of the things my mother has absolutely refused to give up control of is her finances. Up until recently, she didn’t think she had a problem, and it was something she could handle on her own.

When my mother was first diagnosed, she spent a month and a half in a hospital and rehabilitation center. During that time, I handled all of her finances and discovered they were in a mess. She had many bills she hadn’t paid, and there were other bills she had double paid.

It took a month or so, but I finally got everything taken care of. After she was released, she wanted to go back to paying her own bills. I showed her where she had run into trouble before, but she argued with me. It was easier to just let her do it and not fight about it.

By arguing with her about trivial matters and not about the important things, such as her finances, I really caused my mother financial problems. I’ve learned to only put my foot down on things that can have consequences and let everything else slide.

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