This is an intense time. Both you and the person you are caring for will feel the pressure of isolation. Keep in mind that the person senses your feelings. The care environment may feel super-charged.
Care partners might want to keep Ginger Rogers in mind. She famously remarked that she did everything Fred Astaire did, only “backwards and in high heels”. Your job as the care partner of a person with dementia is similar. A challenging dance to be sure! Going with the flow of your partner, all the while making things as safe, calm and pleasant for them as possible is the goal.
As far as SAFETY goes, be vigilant.
- Sanitize regularly.
- Scan your environment for anything (rugs, cords) that might cause a fall. The last thing you or the person you care for might need at this time would be a trip to the emergency room. Enhance lighting and utilize nightlights as needed.
- Think through entry strategies, i.e. what is the sanitizing routine that you follow when you have been out of the home? (Wash or otherwise sanitize hands.) How about when you receive deliveries? (Wipe packaging, and discard after opening.) How about your food? (Be sure to wash all fruits and vegetables.)
- Take advantage of opportunities for telemedicine if you have questions or issues.
- As far as your RELATIONSHIP with the person you are caring for, keep in mind that dementia does interfere with a person’s ability to connect with oneself as well as others.
- Remember you have influence. You are the designer, the architect and the general contractor of this person’s care. The person will be your guide.
- Be guided by the person’s likes and dislikes, their strengths, their long-term memory, their interests and accomplishments. Let them help you in whatever way is possible.
- You may need to develop some scripts that will need to be repeated, without over-explaining things. “These days, it’s just not safe.” Keep things simple and maintain a positive attitude.
- You are entitled to a DELIBERATE plan for your own well-being.
- PLAN to connect socially somehow (telephone, virtually, etc.)
- Continue to PAY ATTENTION to your own personal, physical, emotional, intellectual, artistic and spiritual needs. Seek advice from a trusted friend, family member or professional if you are not sure where to begin.
- BE PREPARED. The following additions to your personal self-care plan will go far to quell worries and “what ifs…?”. They may buy you some much needed sleep!
- Have a bag packed and ready to go with a few comfort items and favorite things that your loved one would appreciate.
- Make sure your legal documents are up to date with provision for a transfer of surrogate powers to someone else, should you become unable to continue to serve as the decision maker for your loved one.
- If you happen to be a support person of a care partner of a person with dementia, a way you can support this caregiver who needs respite is to search the internet for things that the person with dementia might enjoy experiencing. (Music, theater, museum tours and zoo programs abound.)
--Marysue Moses, Ebenezer Dimensions Program Coordinator