When you are taking care of a loved one, it will be rewarding, yet incredibly challenging. At times you may feel overwhelmed, likely because you are trying to do everything on your own. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone. There are many people out there willing to support you, including family members, friends, neighbours, co-workers and professional caregivers and support groups. It has been shown that creating a support system is an integral part of providing good dementia care.
A support system includes people who understand us, and can be depended upon in difficult situations. They listen to us, and give us their honest opinions. Research has shown that having a support system can have many positive benefits, including improved wellbeing and coping skills, as well as a longer and healthier life.
Here are 5 reasons why as a caregiver you should seek support from others:
You need to take care of yourself. Taking care of someone with dementia can take up all your time. If you are providing support around the clock, then there will be no time left for you to look after yourself. But if you get sick or become stressed then this will affect your caretaking abilities. It has been shown that social support can reduce depression and anxiety, so why not go ahead and use this tool?
You can’t do it all. Although at times you will seem like a superhero with everything that you are accomplishing on a daily basis, there will come a point, where you won’t be able to keep doing everything. Make sure that rather than becoming overwhelmed, you have a support system in place that can come to your help when you need it.
You need to have an outlet for your feelings. You may feel frustration or anger about your situation or towards the health care system. This can make it difficult to concentrate on providing a caring environment. A good support system will listen to you without judgement, while offering a different viewpoint, helping you work through your feelings.
You need time off. Everyone needs a break every now and then, and you should not feel guilty about this!
Your loved one will need a break, too. Being around the same person all the time would drive anyone crazy. A support system will help you take care of your loved one, so you can take some time apart.
You might think that there is no one who could really support you, but that is most certainly not the case. Whether it be family, friends or professional staff, there are many different ways to find the right support.
We have put together a few tips for creating a support system:
First of all you need to be willing to ask others for help– so make sure you have the right attitude.
List all the resources available to you right now: people in your social groups, organisations, colleagues at work, neighbours. Think about who may be helpful.
Start with people who are already in your life- who is healthy and positive?
Pick people that make you feel good about yourself
Remember that anyone can provide support, including, family, friends, pets, neighbours, and clergy
Limit contact with people who are negative– these are people that drain your energy and bring you down. Some examples of these are blamers, liars, alcoholics, drug abusers or those that put you down.
If you feel like you don’t know enough people, consider trying new activities to meet different people. This could involve joining a book club or getting active by being on a sports team.
Think about what kind of support you would like. Would you like someone to come in and take over for a while? Would you like help with your household tasks, such as shopping? Do you just want someone to talk to?
Support systems come in many shapes and forms. They may be small or large. Support can be emotional or financial. It can come from mental health professionals, family members, support groups or websites. There is no right or wrong here- only a vast number of opportunities that can help you and your loved one feel better. Why not start the new year by creating a support system for yourself?