One of the most valuable dementia caregiver tips I have for you is to attend caregiver support meetings. That was one of the most beneficial things I did when I was care giving for my mom. That and letting people in my contact sphere (especially church) know that I was living at home with mom.
Where to find dementia caregiver support meetings
I found the dementia support group meetings advertised in my local newspaper. You can also check the websites of your local Alz Association branch or a nursing home or assisted living facility that has a memory care unit. There may be several meetings to choose from during the month – one early in the morning, one during the day, and one offered in the evening.
Who runs the meeting
The session was usually run by a caseworker familiar with memory care issues.
Who attends the meetings
It could be the wife of a veteran with dementia, a granddaughter with a grandpa that had issues or a man that had a wife with dementia. Quite a few times, there were people who had been caregivers of loved ones that had passed away. They kept coming to the meetings. I suspect it was probably cathartic for them but I appreciated their knowledge. It was very helpful to know what worked for them when issues came up and what didn’t work.
How the meeting is set-up
The leader of the meeting might have started with the intention to discuss a certain topic but most of the time it opened by asking if someone had problems they wanted to discuss. That usually set off a discussion. Those who wanted to contribute did so while others just listened.
Should I take my loved one with dementia
No, you probably wouldn’t want to. Think of this as a beneficial therapy session for yourself. Taking your loved one would only defeat the purpose as your attention would more likely be on him/her. Ten minutes into the session and my mom would have been asking where the baby (there wasn’t one) was or who was at home with “the little one.”
Benefits of attending a meeting
- You are with other people who know. Only the people who have lived with someone who has dementia or has a family member with dementia know what dementia does to a person. They know how hard it is for the caregiver, how isolated and alone you feel, how your loved one’s acquaintances slowly drift away and you don’t hear from them, how your lifestyle gradually changes…. You are not alone.
- You might cry. But that’s okay. Crying is beneficial if you’ve been bottling things up and holding back. The group will support you and they understand. You get advice and suggestions from others. You can help others, too. What worked for you may work for someone else’s loved one.
- It’s a safe place to let your emotions go. You can vent at the injustice of the situation or family issue, or vent at the disease itself.
- It’s a chance to get away for a while. Sometimes, you just need to step away and have time for yourself.
- It helps lower stress. Knowledge from the other group members may help you at the next stressful moment with your loved one. Stress affects your physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being.
Alternatives to a caregiver support group
If you choose not to go to a support group, can’t get anyone to watch your loved one while you’re gone, or find that the meeting times don’t work for you, there may be options online. An alternative might be to find your own group of people that can support you when you need it.
When I moved back home to live with my mom and be her caregiver, I knew that I would someday need support from someone, somewhere. I had started regularly attending my old church, joined the choir, and volunteered to help at the community dinner. I told people that Mom had dementia. (Most of them had already figured that out! 😃 )
I let the neighbors know as well thinking that the more eyes watching out for Mom, the better.
So to reiterate my suggestion – Don’t take this route by yourself. It’s tough and you can use a caregiver support group of your own.