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Caregivers of Those with Dementia are First Responders Too!

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By Phyllis DeLaricheliere, MS

Taking care of someone with dementia/Alzheimer’s, at times, can be a thankless job. But those who do so are unique and special. They do it out of love, dedication, respect and loyalty. They accept the journey they will embark on, never knowing where it will take them, but they do it anyway. They are our unsung heroes. Statistically, more and more families are caring for their loved ones with dementia at home right now. And this poses new concerns for caregivers’ health—mental, physical and emotional.

Now let’s add the new world we are living in—COVID-19. In order to be a caregiver, you must stay in good health and think clearly. With the coronavirus pandemic, our loved ones with dementia are at high risk, and it’s the caregiver who usually is the first responder in a time of crisis, or even the first line of defense. Like any first responder, our caregivers often experience high levels of stress and anxiety due to the responsibility placed upon them, fatigue, and the unknowns of COVID-19. So we need to ask all of you, are you taking care of yourselves?

It’s easier said than done. Right? But eating well, resting when you can, getting plenty of fresh air and a good walk will make all the difference. Sounds simple, but somehow we just can’t seem to do it. The hardest thing for those who care for a loved one with dementia (COVID environment or not) is they tend to get absorbed in the needs of their partner and forget about themselves. They don’t reach out to others, and they develop this “It’s my world and I don’t want to burden anyone else” attitude. This only adds to their stress and isolation, which leads to depression and anxiety. Phone a friend, use a ZOOM and see someone. Maybe ask a loved one to stop by and talk to you through a window with masks on. Stay connected to your needs and others. As I’ve always said, you can’t do this alone!

For our dementia caregivers—both professionals and family members—you are angels.  You are doing what many cannot do. And in COVID times, where the person with dementia cannot understand social distancing, masks and handwashing, you have this new layer of risk, care and unknown territory.

So, please know that you matter!  And thank you…for all you are doing.

Phyllis DeLaricheliere, MS, has made a career working with seniors for more than 15 years. She is the recipient of a National Award of Excellence for her monthly column, Ask the Hippie, awarded by the North American Mature Publishers Association in the category of Senior Issues. She is a sought after speaker/educator/author and is excited about her new soon-to-be-punished book, Embracing the Journey: Knowing your Inner Hippie. To book Phyllis for a lecture or to join her pre-published waitlist for her book, email her at knowyourhippie@gmail.com, or call 802-999-7503.

Reprinted from the August 2020 edition of the South Shore Senior News