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5 tips to make caring for someone with memory loss easier

Healthy YOU | Memory Care Healthy Aging Primary Care
Multi-generation family preparing food in kitchen

How to protect your well-being – and the health of your loved one 

If you have the opportunity to care for a parent or spouse with memory loss, you’ll find that your work can be the source of great joy and allow you to spend precious time together. As the weeks pass, caregiving work can also become all-consuming – physically, mentally and emotionally. 

“Of course, family members want to make sure their loved ones are safe and give them the best quality of life possible,” explains Denise Butler, MS, CSA, geriatric assessment coordinator with Riverside Health System. “But often, family members get so wrapped up in taking care of their loved one that they neglect themselves.”  

Here are five tips to make your caregiving life a little easier – and healthier.

1. Make your own health and well-being a priority.
Sure, you need to care for your loved one. But the National Institute on Aging reminds caregivers to take care of themselves too. Start by eating well. Doctors say healthy eating patterns are good for your overall health and may also help protect your brain. Enjoy lean protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, olive oil and other healthy fats. Schedule annual checkups with your physician. 

2. Enjoy some exercise. And involve your loved one too. 
Exercise helps to clear your head and prevent disease. Thirty minutes at least five days a week is best, but even just 10 minutes a day can help. How do you find time? Get creative. Squeeze in a workout before you report for caregiving duty. When your loved one takes a nap, lift weights, hit the stationary bike, or use exercise apps on your phone. 

The Alzheimer’s Association suggests ways you can exercise with your loved one too:

  • Dance together to your favorite music. 
  • Enjoy a walk outdoors or at the mall.
  • Do sit-down exercises at home.
  • Try gardening or another activity.

3. Incorporate stress relievers into your daily caregiving life.
Too much stress causes physical problems, irritability, lack of concentration and depression. For relief, try meditation, breathing exercises, listening to music or other relaxation techniques. For many stressed caregivers, exercise works wonders. Create balance in your life by talking with friends on a regular basis or participating in a hobby. If too many chores or financial tasks are weighing on your mind, ask friends and relatives for help so that you can cross them off your list.

4. Know what to expect. Learn all you can about your loved one’s disease. 
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a patient’s behavior may change over time. Prepare now, practically and emotionally, so that you can adapt to your loved one’s changing needs. You might find it helpful to join a support group for people who care for someone with dementia and memory loss. The Alzheimer’s Association offers an online forum where caregivers can share experiences and tips. 

5. Give yourself a break. 
If you’re a full-time caregiver, try to take a break each day. Accept offers to help. Or ask someone to cover for you while you run errands, visit a friend, take a walk or just take a nap. When the time is right, consider respite care so that you can take care of yourself. And don’t feel guilty about it. If you stay healthy – physically, mentally and emotionally – you’ll be able to care for your loved one more effectively. 

The Family Caregiver Alliance offers more helpful information on being a caregiver and caregiver self-care

For advice on caring for someone with memory loss or dementia, contact the Riverside Center for Excellence in Aging and Lifelong Health or call 757-220-4751.

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