Heather Brown is an Ambassador for Dementia Carers Count. She cares for her dad who has Alzheimer’s and she also cared for her husband who had vascular dementia, so understands how challenging life is as a carer.
Because of her experience with her husband, Heather set up a dementia café in her village which has been running weekly for the past four years as well as running a monthly carers group.
The Coronavirus has made life difficult for everyone, but it is particularly hard for carers, even more so if the person you cared for was attending daycare. Being stuck at home with no respite from caring and little or no help can make time drag and tempers shorten.
The first piece of advice I would give to another carer is be kind to yourself. You can only do your best and that is good enough. It is easy to feel angry and upset and focus on the negatives, but it is not helpful, it just makes us feel more fed up. Look for the positives. You can feel cross and resentful because you can’t go out, or lucky because you are safe in your own home.
I try to find 15 minutes every day for a quiet meditation, try to find 10 if you can’t manage 15. It doesn’t’ matter where you are. I sometimes sit in the kitchen when I have a few spare minutes. Just get comfy, close your eyes and focus on your breathing, listen to a piece of music, or if you can, get short meditation music on YouTube. If find one you particularly like you can download it.
I have treated myself to some reed diffusers, they can be picked up from the supermarket. Walking into a room that smells nice can lift your mood.
Wear your favourite clothes. It doesn’t matter than no one is going to see you. You will feel better for looking nice.
If you can, get out in the fresh air. Even if you only take a kitchen chair and sit in the garden for 10 minutes while you drink a cup of tea or coffee.
If you can, get up half an hour earlier than your loved one or go to bed a bit later. When my husband was still at home I used to get up early and have my breakfast in peace. before I took his breakfast up to him. He would happily eat his breakfast in bed. It meant I had some quiet time to plan what I needed to do that day and I felt more in control.
Ask for help. My daughters are always telling me they know I CAN manage but that doesn’t mean I have to. Particularly at the moment. If a neighbour or friend has offered to do shopping or collect a prescription, let them. You will probably make them feel better too, because they are feeling useful.
Make yourself smile, it instantly makes you feel better – try it!
Ring a friend or relative – chatting to someone for a few minutes can make you feel better, if you can’t get out it is important – don’t sit and wait for someone to ring you.
Remember that the situation is also having an impact on the person you are caring for, their routine has been just as disrupted as yours. It will be difficult for both of you to adjust. Even the most tolerant of us are finding ourselves tested when we must spend all our time cooped up together. Forgive yourself.
Acknowledge that it is difficult. Accept that you probably will have times when you feel frustrated or cross. This will not last for ever. Every day we get through is a day nearer getting back to normal
When all else failed and I couldn’t get five minutes peace. I would stand in the walk in cupboard in the kitchen. Count to 10 slowly, take a deep breath and come out and smile.
Nothing lasts forever, in the meantime put photos up to remind yourself of happier times.