You’ve been caring for your mom or dad for months now. It hasn’t always been easy. You’ve had arguments and felt frustrated, but you still have times when you laugh together about a memory from childhood that brightens their eyes again.
As their dementia progresses, you miss how things used to be. You miss their personality, their wisdom, their friendship. You miss them.
The stress of acting as their caregiver can build surprisingly fast. One minute you think you’re doing ok. The next minute you feel guilty for wanting life to go back to normal—when you had time for hobbies, friends, work and a normal family life. And just when you think you’re getting the hang of things, you feel anger and frustration bubbling up as your parent needs you for even more tasks. Simple things become big things. Everything feels complicated and takes so much time.
It’s a big undertaking to care for your parent with dementia. Some days good moments outweigh challenging ones. Your parent has a moment of clarity that fills you with joy for hours, but their dependence on you increases your stress as the disease progresses. You may feel unsure about where to turn next or how to handle a difficult situation.
Whether your parent is living with you or you’re helping them in their home, you’ve probably been witnessing the changes in them daily. Below are some of the common cognitive signs of dementia:
• Losing things and not being able to retrace steps
• Difficulty communicating, problem-solving and planning
• Memory deficits that disrupt daily life
• Poor judgement
• Confusion and disorientation
• Difficulty completing regular tasks
• Repetitive speech or actions
• Difficulty with motor skills
These changes are challenging, but the psychological changes can push you to your limits. You’ve borne the weight of the personality changes, withdrawal from social activities, agitation, depression, anxiety, inappropriate behavior and paranoia. At times, the stress leaves you teetering on the edge.
Please know, you are not alone. What you feel and how you react to those feelings are normal human emotions and reactions. Many other adult children have felt the same things as they navigate the minefield of caring for a parent with dementia. You have the right to feel the way you do; you’re in the midst of a challenging journey.
Again, you are not alone. And there is help.
Caregiver burnout signs
If you find yourself arguing once again with your parent or losing patience too often, you may be burning out. This happens to many adult-child caregivers. You may also feel like you’re trying with everything you have and still feel like you’re failing them. Do you see any of these signs in yourself?
• Social withdrawal — Have you lost touch with your friends or don’t take part in activities you used to enjoy?
• Anxiety — Are you worried you won’t be able to provide the care needed as the disease progresses? Or anxious about taking care of both your family and your parent?