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To Serve with Love

Published in Senior Living, Senior Services, For the Health of It Author: Brenda Turner, Manager of Resident Support Services, St. Benedict's Community

As a caregiver, you always put yourself last. But the best thing you can do for your loved one with dementia is to stay physically and emotionally strong. How else are you going to be able to care for that person who means so much to you?

Get annual checkups and flu vaccinations

Listen to what your body is telling you. Don’t ignore symptoms that can cause your physical and mental health to decline such as exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness or changes in appetite or behavior. Be proactive with your health needs by keeping up with vaccinations and checkups.

Make time to exercise

Even 30 minutes of exercise will help relieve stress, prevent disease and improve your outlook. Reach out to friends and family so you can get an exercise break. Or exercise at home while your loved one is napping.

You also can be active with your loved one. Try these ideas:

  • Take a walk together outside to enjoy the fresh air
  • Go to the mall and take a stroll indoors
  • Do seated exercises at home
  • Dance together to favorite music
  • Garden or do other routine activities that you both enjoy

Watch your diet

It’s easy to “eat your feelings” when you are stressed. Focus on heart-healthy menus that are good for overall wellness. For instance, a Mediterranean diet includes relatively little red meat and emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, olive oil and other healthy fats. Try some new recipes and involve your loved one in meal preparation.

Learn coping mechanisms

  1. Manage your stress. Stress can cause physical problems and changes in behavior. Talk to your health care provider if you notice symptoms. Find relaxation techniques that will help you such as deep breathing, massage, meditation, etc.
  2. Live in the moment. Focus on the positive times with your loved one and the good memories you are making together.
  3. Give yourself credit. You are doing the best you can. You may feel guilty because you can’t do more, but individual care needs change as Alzheimer’s progresses. For support and encouragement, join ALZConnected, the Alzheimer’s Association online caregiver community.
  4. Take a break. You can’t do it alone. Ask family and friends for help, connect with an agency that can provide in-home assistance or find a facility that provides respite care.
  5. Accept changes. As Alzheimer’s progresses, your loved one may require care beyond what you can provide on your own. When you’re ready to make that next step, CentraCare has a variety of memory care housing options.