Happily-married couples picture themselves together until their very last day. They take their vows seriously. They have been by each other’s side through “sickness and health” many times. However, dementia is different. Caring for a spouse with dementia pushes all of the emotional and physical limits of the caregiver. Understanding the disease, one of the most complex that exists today, can be exhausting and trying to happily deliver care to a person who no longer knows the caregiver can be devastating.
Professional help is the best thing that a family can seek when a loved one is diagnosed with dementia. In some families, there are factors that work against that:
- A spouse’s pride may demand that s/he provide the care
- A private couple may not want a stranger in their house
- The family may not trust a stranger
Finances and other concerns may delay the decision
However, for all of the obstacles that may exist, there are compelling reasons to hire professional help, even if it is part-time or to give the caregiver respite for a day.
Studies show extreme psychological stress for spousal caregivers
- Spousal caregivers die earlier than non-spousal caregivers
- An older spouse is apt to get sick or depressed as the main caregiver
Caregivers can develop “caregivers dementia” caused by the stress of caregiving
This is why it is important to take care of the caregiver. Caregivers can’t really take a coffee break. They can sit down and have a cup of coffee but it’s not really a break; a watchful eye must be kept on the person in their charge.
One way that caregivers can care for themselves is to remain active in hobbies and activities that they enjoy. A professional or a family member can take over the caregiving duties while the spouse goes to church, or a book club or swim class. These activities are essential if the caregiver is to hang in there for the long haul, without getting sick, depressed, or isolated.
Many assisted living facilities offer respite care. It is a type of adult day care except that it can include overnights. This is a great way for the caregiver to go away for the weekend, knowing that the loved one is safe and sound in a professional setting.
Caregivers take their job very seriously so it may be difficult to ask for help. Consider that investing in yourself as the caregiver is also investing in the person you are for. More energy for you is more energy for your loved one. The more rest you can get physically and mentally, the more compassion and patience you will have as a caregiver.