Dementia Teams

Say you are ready to let others participate in caring for your loved one living with dementia. Maybe this is driven by concerns for your health. Maybe you’ve realized that your patience is shorter than what a day of caregiving requires. Whatever the case, now you are ready to open the door a crack and let someone in.

Where do you start?

Peer support
Dementia caregivers face unique situations every day. While each event is specific to you and your loved one, the feelings they spark are like those experienced by others walking in your shoes: frustration, anger, shortness of patience and more. When you share your feelings, in a safe setting like a support group, you feel understood, validated, and confident.

You’ll be prepared to wake up and give caregiving another try in the morning. Call 800-272-3900 to see if the Alzheimer’s Association has an online or in-person support group at a time that works for you.

“If you ever hear of someone who is completely successful, healthy, and happy as an Dementia caregiver by going it alone, let me know. That person should be written up in the medical journals and maybe even considered for sainthood.”

Online Resource Guru
During dementia you’ll need to identify many new resources and services. This is where your adult children, friends and young family members can help. They are experts at finding things on the internet. Ask if you can contact them for help finding resources online. You’ll likely be surprised at how quickly they say yes.

For them, finding a phone number, a street address, and other things is fast and easy. The bonus is that they will like you more after they help you out… and especially after you let them know they made a big difference in helping you find what you needed.

Day Brightener
It’s common for dementia caregivers to need an extra dose of smiles. Depending on the personality of your out-of-town children, friends, and family members, this may be a great way for them to contribute to your dementia team. A smile can be shared through a greeting card, or a mailed photo, a letter, a phone call or a hundred other small ways.

Local care team members can brighten a day by delivering balloons, flowers, and healthy treats like a seasonal basket of fruit. Also, it’s never been easier to have a meal delivered. Let local care team members know if you are open to them spending time with your loved one while you take a walk or run an errand. Also let them know if you and your loved one are open to a two visitors – one for your loved one and one for you.

Spiritual Advisor
Since dementia is ultimately a life-ending disease, having a spiritual caregiver on your team is a tremendous comfort. A Spiritual Caregiver can plug you in to worship services and studies that provide hope and strength.

Paid helpers for people living with dementia range from aides to LPNs to RNS. Hire someone based on the support your loved one needs. For example, during early and moderate Alzheimer’s, an aide who provides companionship and stimulation may be ideal. Another option during this stage is to enroll your loved one in a nearby adult day program. My extroverted mother who loved people and activities thrived at her adult day program for years.

During moderate to late Alzheimer’s, your loved one may need someone with additional training. Registered Nurses (RNs) are appropriate when your loved one needs medical attention during your absence, perhaps due to a secondary condition.

Agencies are available to provide home health workers. Ask if you can start with someone a few hours a week to see if they are a good fit with your loved one and their needs.

Paid companions can be essential to your goal to provide sustainable caregiving for your loved one. Your ability to care and coordinate care for your loved one five or even ten years from now is dependent on how you manage your energy and how low you keep your stress levels today.

Household Helpers
You’ve likely taken on more of your partner’s chores over time as they became less able to complete them. Without realizing it, you may now be preparing meals, doing the grocery shopping, doing the laundry, and keeping up with house cleaning in addition to the chores you’ve always done. These can be a great place to incorporate outside help.

It may be time to ask a child or friend to help you set up online grocery ordering and delivery. Perhaps it’s time to hire a housekeeper to keep up with dusting and vacuuming as well as doing the laundry. Ask your friends and neighbors for recommendations. Consider trying prepared meals from the grocery or local shops for your evening meal. This lets you focus on your loved one’s safety as they sundown this time of day.

Next Steps
“I don’t want to burden my children”. It’s a common refrain among parents. Yet, if your child or your nephew or niece is a person who likes to help, they may be waiting for you to suggest a way for them to get involved. They may be glad to be invited to do online research or shop for a greeting card for you.

Remember these four things: 1) People who like to help others believe that if you want help, you’ll ask for it.  2) You must make them believe that you actually want help. 3) You must make them believe that they personally are responsible for helping you. 4) And finally, they must be able to provide the help you need.

Helpful people can be found in your church and in your neighborhood. Remember to reach out to your local Area Agency on Aging and your local chapter of the Dementia Association for resources, many of them at no or low cost.

Bringing others into caregiving means your role transitions from team “player” to team “player/coach”. You’ll be recruiting, directing, and inspiring others to give your loved one the kind of care you want them to receive. Even when you do a little less hands-on dementia caregiving, know that you will always be your loved one’s caregiver.


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