As a caregiver it’s easy to slip into a daily routine and forget about the original intent of a caregiving journey: to make your loved one’s life simpler, happier and worth living.
You may become bound by appointments, caregiving duties and the stress of balancing your own family life. But as a caregiver it’s important to always remember these 10 essential commandments:
1. Yes, they’re still the same person
Your loved one’s memories may have faded, but essentially they are still the same person who deserves the respect, dignity and happiness of any adult on an everyday basis.
2. Always treat your loved one like the adult they are
Your loved one’s behaviour may be inappropriate, unpleasant, unkind and even child-like at times, but they are still adults and must always be treated as one. Baby talk and patronisation is never ok.
3. Take the journey into their world
The reality is that dementia and Alzheimer’s patients simply cannot function in the world you live in. You have to take the plunge into their world and remember to accept what is ‘normal’ for you, may not be ‘normal’ for your loved one.
4. Actions are more meaningful than words
Sometimes the act of affection, a hug, a touch on the hand, a kiss on the cheek can say so much more than a dementia or Alzheimer’s patient can understand through words. Don’t neglect affection!
5. A consistent schedule is key
A daily schedule of caregiving duties helps your loved one to tap into relevant memories they may have formed, helping to strengthen parts of the brain. Schedules provide a sense of security and calm.
6. A daily dose of the outdoors is vital
Fresh air and sunshine is absolutely imperative to keep elderly loved ones sane, happy and in a positive frame of mind. A short walk in the sunshine, 20-minutes on an outside bench or a day bed in the sunshine each day should suffice.
7. Incorporate pleasurable activities into your routine
Even if a loved cannot remember that you took them for tea and cake, the pleasurable feelings and happy emotions can still last for hours afterwards. Remember to regularly provide them with these feel-good endorphins.
8. Keep things sociable
This is important, but must be tailored to what your loved one is comfortable with. If large crowds are a no-go, stick to smaller social gatherings of two –three people at a time. Even if they cannot remember grandchildren, make an effort to visit to help boost feel-good emotions.
9. Create a safe environment
This means offering your loved one the freedom to move about on their own, but in the safest manner possible. This may mean installing hand rails throughout the home, removing all fall and trip hazards and buying a walker.
10. Keep them as healthy as possible
Yes, indulgences are allowed, but for the most part make sure your loved one is eating a nutritional, balanced diet which will help to promote healthy brain function and immune system.
Some days may be harder than others along your caregiving journey, in fact, that is a given. But if you ever falter on what’s important, these 10 caregiving commandments should set you back on track.