Dementia is a difficult topic to think about but when it affects a loved one it can be a daunting prospect. Becoming a carer will inevitably alter your lifestyle and you will experience an array of difficult and conflicting emotions. Whilst it can be a challenge, caring for someone you love can be incredibly rewarding and help is widely available to support both you and person needing care.
Support for you as a dementia carer
If you are providing care for someone who is suffering from dementia it is important you register as a carer at your local doctor’s surgery – as this will open up more services and support available to you.
Apply for a carer’s assessment
Once you have registered as a carer, you can apply for a carer’s assessment. This assessment is completely free for anyone over 18 who is deemed a carer.
To start the process, contact adult social services at your local council and they will get the ball rolling. The results of the assessment may mean you can get help with various things such as a gym membership to help relieve stress, help with housework and gardening, advice about benefits, and help providing respite care so you can take a break.
Help with eating and drinking
For those suffering from dementia, remembering to drink is a real problem. Often they do not realise they are thirsty and, therefore, go hours without drinking which can lead to dehydration and other side effects. UTIs are a common problem, as well as headaches and bowel issues such as constipation, which are linked to a lack of hydration .
There are aids available to help monitor water intake, such as the Droplet Hydration Kit . Simple changes such as using brightly coloured cups, can help a person see where their drink is. To help with eating, try using plain plates instead of patterned ones as decorative designs can be distracting.
Help with sleeping problems
Night time does not always offer up the respite which carer’s desire. For those suffering from dementia, sleep disturbances can be another obstacle. Repeatedly waking in the night can impact one’s body clock, so it is important to try and ensure they participate in physical activity during the day so they can benefit from the natural sunlight and use up energy before night time .
Cutting out caffeine in the afternoons can also aid a better nights sleep; as can having a warm milky drink before bed. Consider their bedrooms and whether changes can be made to make it more comfortable, for example blackout blinds can help if their rooms are too bright.
Check if you’re eligible for benefits
Looking after someone with dementia can also be a financial burden as you may be forced to leave employment to care for someone full time.
As a carer you may be entitled to different benefits, one of those is a Carer’s Allowance. This is the main state benefit for carers and you can apply for this if you look after someone for more than 35 hours a week.
More benefits may also be available to you, so it is worth contacting your local council for advice.
Look after yourself
When you are providing care for others, it is easy to forget to look after yourself. Try to schedule in breaks where you can escape the stress and pressure, and have the chance to relax. Keep yourself physically, mentally and emotionally healthy – as this will help you cope better with the challenges carer’s faces. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, as even if you do not have help from friends or family, there are many services available to help support you .