Sunday, 22nd October 2017
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This is the eighth article in our "Focus on Dementia" series and this week we look at caring for the carer. Caring for a person with dementia is rewarding, but it is also very challenging. If you are a carer, there are practical things that you can do to help with the stresses of caring, as well as getting information on services and supports that can help. If you know somebody who is caring for someone with dementia, there are some simple things that you can do too. Here's what you need to know.

What is dementia?

Dementia is caused by a number of diseases that damage the nerve cells in the brain. Common symptoms may include difficulties with thinking and language, problem-solving and the carrying out of everyday tasks, as well as issues with changes in mood and behaviour. Dementia affects short-term memory and some common problems include:

- forgetting people’s names

- struggling to remember day-to-day events or experiences

- misplacing items such as keys or glasses around the house

- getting lost in familiar places or on a regular journey

- finding it hard to start or follow conversations

Carers in Ireland

There are approximately 180,000 people in Ireland who are currently, or who have been, carers for a family member or partner with dementia. Carers play an immensely valuable role, however, it can be tough at times. Do remember that you are not alone, and there is support, advice and training available to help you.

Looking after you

It is so important to look after yourself, particularly if you are a full-time carer. It is practical, not selfish, because if your needs are taken care of, the person you are caring for benefits too. Try to eat a balanced diet, to go out for a walk each day – even if it’s just for ten minutes – and to get a good night's sleep.

Build a support team

For some carers, as their loved one's dementia progresses, they may find that they no longer have the same relationship. They can feel lonely and that they have lost their friend. That’s why it’s so important to build a support team so that there is a group of trusted friends and family who are there to help, even if it’s just to listen to your worries or to get your groceries. Be aware of your own limits and don’t wait until you feel overwhelmed to seek help. Having the right support can ensure that you are less stressed, more positive and better able to care for your loved one.

If you know someone who is a carer for a person with dementia, don’t shy away and think that they are too busy to see you. Drop by for a chat. Don’t underestimate the difference that friendship and emotional support can make. It goes a long way towards improving the health and well-being of the carer and lessens the sense of isolation they can experience.

Seek support and advice

It’s a good idea to speak with your Local Health Office and public health nurse about supports and services available in your area that can help give you a break, such as Day Care and Respite Centres. It can be hard to leave your loved one in the care of someone else but it’s very important to take time for you. The Alzheimer Society of Ireland provides a range of specialist services that offer support and advice to carers, as well as to people with dementia, including social clubs, support groups and a dementia adviser service which provides individualised information and sign-posting to other services.

Training

Training for carers is available through several organisations and can help equip you with the practical skills that you need to care for a loved one. Dementia Elevator offers online courses and the Alzheimer Society of Ireland runs a six-week course – also available online – aimed at supporting family members who are caring for loved ones with dementia. The Dementia Services Information and Development Centre (DSIDC) provides a course for family care-givers which is held in different venues around the country. You can find out more about training options at http://www.understandtogether.ie/training-resources.

This feature is the eighth in a series of "Dementia: Understand Together" articles. Next week, the last article in the series looks at how to create a dementia-inclusive community. For more information, Freephone 1800 341 341 or visit http://www.understandtogether.ie

"Focus on Dementia" is an initiative of the Dementia: Understand Together campaign led by the HSE, working with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Genio, and supported by Waterford Today.

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