Until his death, my father cared for my mother. As she slipped deeper into dementia, she communicated less; only wanting to watch television. On several occasions, he said what he missed most was the conversation with his wife. In other words, he became lonely.
Being a caregiver for a relative with Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementia can be lonely. Friends and relatives may visit occasionally, but most of the time you are alone with a person who can’t hold a normal conversation. Dad never liked to talk on the telephone, but as my mother slipped away mentally, I noticed he called more often and conversed longer.
Here are three encouraging suggestions. First, you must have social interaction for your own mental health. Make some arrangement to get out and mingle with people even if it’s just a few hours once a week. Visitors at home are great, but it is preferable to escape the physical and mental confines of caregiving for a while.
Though I found it refreshing to escape for a few hours to shop for groceries or supplies at the hardware store, that is not sufficient. You need to interact with people. Alzheimer’s support groups are a great place to associate with others. Some other suggestions are genealogy organizations, writing clubs, quilting groups, or a Sunday School class. Socialization will keep you in touch with the real world so you won’t feel trapped in the confines of full-time caregiving. Research indicates people who socialize live longer and are less likely to develop dementia.
Second, this problematic time won’t last forever. Try to use it wisely. Though you may be a twenty-four-hour caregiver, you will have quiet times to enjoy some books or study the Bible. This might be a good time to write a book or poems. Possibly, you could become a gourmet cook or learn to sew. Try to do something productive with your downtime while a caregiver. It will give you a sense of accomplishment, and it may give you some mental escape.
Last, but not least, remember you are not alone. Christ is with you. Rely on his promise in Hebrews 13:5-6 NASB, He assured, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.”
Once I visited a friend for a morning cup of coffee. He was a tough marine but surprisingly compassionate. He said he’d had a pleasant conversation with his father earlier that morning. Since it was early, I was surprised he had already talked to anyone. He informed me he always rose early for a quiet time with his father. Then, I realized he was referring to his heavenly Father. Each morning he read his Bible and prayed. It prepared him for the challenges of the day but also kept him emotionally healthy.
Being a full-time caregiver for a dementia patient can be a lonely time. It will take an active effort on your part to keep yourself mentally healthy. Remember, you are not alone. Christ can help you.
© Ronald Milburn 2018