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I have seen so many caregivers get burned out from taking care of their loved ones.

One thing I always tell them is that, you cannot give what you do not have.

You cannot give money, if you do not have money. You cannot give love, if you don’t love yourself. You cannot give care, if you don’t take care of yourself first.

I remember, when riding in an airplane, the stewardess will always tell us to help ourselves first just in case there is a change in cabin air pressure. They will tell us to put our oxygen mask first before putting or helping other people.

Caring for yourself is also very important and is one of the most forgotten things we do as a caregiver. When you take care of yourself, you take care of your loved ones too!

We are now seeing more and more caregivers who are putting their health and wellbeing at risk.

If you are a baby boomer and have assumed a caregiver role for your spouse, parents or sometimes children. You will simultaneously try to balance work and family. You will face a higher risk of depression, sickness and decrease in quality of life due to this new situation you are having.

I have been actively engaging myself in some of the dementia groups in facebook and have seen caregivers who complained about unable to sleep, poor eating habits, failure to exercise and failure to basically take care of themselves resulting to being sick themselves.

We cannot really stop the progression of dementia. But there is something you can do, take responsibility for your health and well being.

Most of the time, we have beliefs and barriers that is in our way in taking care of our loved ones. Sometimes we think that, i would rather take care of mom or dad than take care of myself. However, as a caregiver, you must always ask yourself. “How can i take care of mother or father if i become sick?” Sometimes, we have to accept some truth to remove these barriers we see in ourselves.

Remember that, it is not selfish to focus on your own needs and desires when you are a caregiver.

Here are some things you can do to improve yourself

  • Learn to exercise, meditate, do yoga or tai chi.
  • Take care of your health! Go to your doctor. Get proper rest and nutrition. Get plenty of fluids, exercise and sleep!
  • Take time offs.
  • Get some help.
  • Take your family to daycare.
  • Accept and seek the support of others.
  • Read a book. Learn, learn, learn, more about dementia.
  • Seek counseling. Talk to your pastor, friend or counselor. Focus on the good and not on the bad. Focus on what you have and not what you don’t have. Remember what Henry Ford said, whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are right!. This is also goes in taking care of our dementia patients and loved ones. If you think you can’t change their lives, you are right. But if you think you can change and impact and touch and improve their lives, you are right!

Again, caregivers are at high risk for depression and use of tobacco, drugs and alcohol. It can be an emotional roller coaster ride. Your life will go up and down. Fast movements and slow movements. But what matter is keep moving forward and just enjoy the ride.

But on the other hand, caring for your loved ones also demonstrates commitment, love and patience and can be a very rewarding experience and can be a story that can be told to your future family.

I would like to encourage you today that this test that you are encountering, is actually a testimony for other people. That this story or situation you are going through can be a good testimony. You can share your story to other people and help them how to cope up with other family that are also encountering this horrible disease. Remember that every time you encounter a big challenge.

Be encouraged that, the bigger the challenge in dementia, the bigger the victory in caregiving. That every setback in dementia care-giving is actually a setup for more understanding on this disease. That every stumbling block in dementia care-giving is actually a stepping stone to further understand this disease. And that hopefully, someday we can really MisUnderstand Dementia.

Enjoyed the article? 

You can find more great content here:

How To Keep Your Dementia Patient Engaged

About the author 

Dr Michael Chua PT, DPT

Dr Michael Chua is a physical therapist practising in Home Health, Skilled Nursing Facilities and Acute Care Hospital. His clinical interest involves pain management, geriatrics and dementia management. He enjoys treating patients and bringing out the best in them using positive treatment approaches, his dynamic work setting in a rural area provides an opportunity to treat a wide range from geriatrics to orthopaedics.

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