When Nancy Levitt's mother was first diagnosed with dementia 14 years ago at age 78, the doctor told her she could safely drive to familiar places. But Levitt, 61, who volunteers at UCLA's Center on Aging in Los Angeles, was still nervous. Unexplained nicks and dents started appearing on her mother's car. She forgot where she parked. Levitt tried to discuss driving safety with her mother, but she angrily denied there was a problem. Then, she would forget their talks about driving altogether.
Ask for help. You can't do everything yourself, so don't try. Get other family members and friends involved.
Be specific about what you need. Have your brother do a round of grocery shopping. See if a neighbor can keep an eye on things for half an hour while take a break. Look into community resources and see what sort of help is available.
Get support. If your friends have trouble understanding your situation, join a caregiver support group. You'll meet people who know what you're going through and can offer advice. Try your local area agency on aging to find out about groups near you.
Take care of your body. Make sure you don't ignore your own health. Get regular checkups. Try to eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep.
Stay mentally healthy. Caregiving can be emotionally draining, but you don't want to let that turn into feelings of depression. If you feel overwhelmed, set up an appointment with a counselor or therapist.
Focus on what’s most important. You may sometimes feel like you have more things to do in a day than you have time for. So concentrate on what you have to get done and let the rest go. The world won't end if you put off cleaning out the shed for a few months or if you skip having the New Year's party this year.
Stay connected. Make an effort to keep close to the people you care about. You don't want to let your workload as a caregiver put a strain on your other relationships. Your friends and family can be a huge source of support while you take care of your loved one.
Consider taking a leave from work. Time off from your job may not be an option financially. But remember that the federal Family and Medical Leave Act allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a sick relative.