Caregiving With More Ease and Better Health – Top 10 Tips

When my husband, Dave was diagnosed with Frontotemporal dementia over 4 years ago, I was desperate to find a manual or a handout on 10 Easy Ways to Live with Dementia. I wanted some sort of game plan or road map on how to manage his dementia; how to deal with the frustrations and disappointments of a constantly changing world; and how to stay healthy throughout this care giving journey. I know that it’s a tall order and after 4 years of care giving I understand why the book hasn’t been published.

Last week when I was reading a book titled “Brain Rules” –12 ways to help you get the most out of your brain, I had an idea about rules for care giving. So I decided to write a list of what I do to make my life easier and healthier.

Here are my top 10 rules:

  1. Exercising Daily: at least a 30-minute walk (preferably outside) to calm your mind, improve your immune system and your memory.
  2. Share your load with family and friends. Don’t think this journey is all on your shoulders. I didn’t accept or ask for help for 2 years because I didn’t want people to think I couldn’t handle the load I was given. I finally realized that it is a win-win when I receive help. My workload is less, and I’m allowing someone to give me a gift that helps them feel good. I’m constantly reminding myself of how good I feel when I give to others so why should I be selfish and not return the favour.
  3. Be discerning with your time. Learn how to politely say no if you are doing something you should be doing, instead of what you want to be do. Also review your ‘to do’ list and cut or reduce your time wasters. Think about the jobs that you can let go or delegate. Note: I feel it is important for Dave to help me and I revise his ‘honey-do’ list as his abilities change. For example, he is able to vacuum and since he is extremely sensitive to noise, he wears ear protectors.
  4. Eat 3-5 simple meals/snacks a day to maintain a constant blood sugar level. Try to include protein and low-glycemic carbohydrates with each meal to avoid the sugar crashes. You will have more energy, patience and better health. When your blood sugars fluctuate there is an increase of inflammation in the body that leads to a higher risk of developing degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, and heart disease.
  5. Get regular sleep. Try to keep regular hours regardless of whether it is a weekday or a weekend. Soaking in a tub, listening to soft music, or meditating before bed helps to calm down the brain chatter. Watching the news just before bed doesn’t foster ‘sweet dreams’.
  6. Schedule rest periods–instead of constantly ‘doing’ something every minute. I like to take mini breaks throughout my day when I sit for a few minutes and rest my eyes and my brain. I also make it a priority to spend a few quality hours with Dave in the afternoon. We sit outside watching the birds, playing trionomos, (a numbers game) or sitting quietly. I definitely have more energy and patience when I’m not on a treadmill.
  7. Create systems to save time and energy. For example: a) Accordion file folders are handy for receipts, legal papers, names of plumbers, electricians, car mechanics etc. I keep it handy and add to it as my ‘support team’ grows; b) A Day-Timer helps to organize and make the most out of my day. It allows me to balance my rest and work time, plus time with Dave or my friends. For my monthly and yearly appointments/trips I have 2 large whiteboards; c) Sticky Notes (I love them even more than duct tape) are a great way to remember a variety of things. I put them on the outside door to remind Dave to wash the dogs in the tub after a hike, grocery lists on the fridge, phone messages, and bills to pay.
  8. Hire help: students for gardening, or sitting with your loved when you go out. How about hiring a retired person to help with the driving, house cleaning, and running errands?
  9. Make regular dates with friends who are fun and make you laugh; go for lunch, movie, or a picnic at least once/week. Socializing is great for your mental, emotional and physical health.
  10. Surround yourself with a pet or young children for your daily dose of unconditional loving. It doesn’t matter how cranky or sad you feel, their hugs and cuddles are the best.

I hope this list gives you an idea of how I’m finding more time for myself–juggling all the chores with working, family, and courses-and generally making my life easier and healthier. Why don’t you pick 1 of the 10 Rules and see how you can create more ease and less tension in your life?