An essential part of human nature is falling in love. People fall in love with their spouses, friends, neighbors, siblings, children, and pets. But, they often forget to fall in love with themselves. It’s important to love yourself and be happy and content with who you are and what you are doing. Only then can you possibly function at your fullest potential and give your very best to the world.
Loving yourself first becomes even more important when you are caring for dementia patients. Dementia is an umbrella term used for diseases that involve memory loss which is so severe that it hampers the daily functioning of an individual. Routine tasks become a challenge for them as their memory weakens and cognitive ability diminishes. Dementia patients gradually lose their cognitive ability to function independently.
It is similar to unlearning the things you were once very good at. From the caregiver perspective, this memory loss is a cause of extreme frustration and stress. Caring for a dementia patient is mentally, physically and emotionally challenging. It is very different from caring for a sick loved one because there is no permanent cure for dementia. Patients only get worse and more demanding with time and the symptoms get more pronounced and intense with age.
Family caregiving for dementia patients gets more stressful and frustrating because the caregiver is trying to juggle multiple responsibilities at the same time – raising children, running a household, working professionally and looking after a dementia patient. There is a lot to be done at once. But, it is vital to remember that you cannot do everything simultaneously. It is a foolish idea trying to do all things together anyway. Prioritise your to-do list and do only the most important tasks.
One simple reason to look after yourself first as a caregiver is that you can meet the needs of the patient only when your own physical, mental and emotional needs are well-taken care of. Caring for dementia patients often means that their needs would come before your own; hence, it is important to take out time for yourself and do things that interest you.
By properly looking after yourself, you will be in a better position to take care of dementia patients as every passing day brings new challenges for them. When you are physically and mentally fit, you will realize that you are better able to adapt to new challenges and changes. Caring for dementia patients is rewarding but can be very stressful too. Keeping your stress levels in control is crucial to handling the patient.
Caregivers often feel that they do not have time to pursue their interests and hobbies, and hence, they are neglected and ignored continuously. Doing things that make you happy revitalizes cognitive and emotional functioning. You are less likely to get angry, frustrated and impatient if you do not feel lonely and isolated.
Loving yourself also includes sleeping properly and eating well. Sleep is the body’s way of recovering from fatigue, both mental and physical. Sleep deprivation will negatively affect your ability as a caregiver and it will impact the health of both the patient and the caregiver. Moreover, a well-balanced and healthy diet will provide the caregiver with the energy required for caring, therefore, it is essential to have proper, on-time meals.
Often, caregivers report that they feel guilty for taking out time for themselves or selfish for taking a break, knowing that the other person needs their time and attention. However, it isn’t right to think like that when you are looking after a dementia patient. After all, taking a break from your caregiving duties will enable you to perform your role better as a caregiver. Some time away from caring provides you a break from your routine tasks; hence, it refreshes your emotional and mental state. Taking out some me-time reduces the feeling of being isolated and depressed. It also allows you to continue living as normal a life as you possibly can along with your caregiving responsibilities.
To sum up, it is crucial to love yourself for the following reasons:
- To avoid getting frustrated, angry and stressed
- Avoid the guilt feeling about not being good enough or not doing enough for the patient
- Stop comparing yourself with other caregivers
- Spend quality time with your loved one
- Provide better care, support, and comfort to the patient
Caring for dementia patients is very much like sitting in an airplane in an emergency situation. When the oxygen masks fall down, passengers are instructed to wear their own masks first before helping others. This is done because you will not be able to effectively help the other person breath when you yourself have trouble breathing. Similarly, if the caregiver is not in a proper mental, physical and emotional health, then how can they possibly perform the caring roles to the best of their abilities?