Helping family carers support people living with dementia

“that which isn’t good for hives, isn’t good for the bee” Marcus Arelius, Mediation, 6:54

Reading through Dr Genge’s blog post here, I could not but think about the huge responsibilities on carers of the people living with dementia in the community. More than ever before, carers are expected to continue to provide support and it falls on them to help people living with dementia manage the potential disruptions in routines that this ongoing crisis might cause. In some situations, besides social distancing creating the guilt of not being able to be in close proximity with loved ones being cared for, carers still have to deal with their own increased personal needs as well as those of their immediate family members or friends.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that even though the frontline staff members in the National Health Service (NHS) are doing everything humanly possible to support patients on a daily basis, they are also filled with anxieties around their work, for instance due to the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the potential need to self-isolate from their immediate family members, which is already a reality for many. They have a duty of care with regards to prioritising who should have what sort of treatment, practicing effectively, preserving safety as well as promoting professionalism and trust; but they are human beings and their emotions can be triggered by their own unresolved or unclear family circumstances as well as the excessive demands placed on them in the clinical environment. As such, they might react in ways that might further exacerbate the stressors of people living with dementia and their carers.

From our struggles through this chaotic period, it is clear how vulnerable we all are, how inextricably intertwined we are and how we all have a role to play. This crisis calls for the need to be mindful of others especially the carers of people living with dementia who play a central role between their loved ones and frontline staff members. All over social media, panic is intensified, and calm can sometimes be castigated as failing to recognize the seriousness of the situation. I am therefore using this medium to remind us that our actions and reactions at this time speak volumes and this is the perfect moment to master the act of kindness. It is important to help carers of people living with dementia cope with their responsibilities and by so doing, we will be helping NHS staff members in the frontline, as well as ourselves and we will essentially foster hope.

Tranquility can be contagious and is very much needed at this difficult period. Below is some practical guidance that can be of help. This stems from my own experience as a carer for my grandparent in the past, from my training and work as a mental health nurse and from reading about how to sustain well-being:

  • Rather than advising carers on what to do, be a good listener by asking how you can be of help and showing your understanding.
  • Encourage carers to maintain a routine.
  • Encourage carers to individually observe their various religious practices if they have any.
  • Remind carers to keep in touch with their friends and loved ones.
  • Help carers understand Covid-19 by dispelling rumours.
  • Pass carers only relevant information and help them focus on what is within their control at any given time.
  • Remind carers of the good times that you have had together or that they have shared with you.
  • Encourage carers to stay active, for example, exercise once a day.

 

Written by Oladayo Bifarin

 

 

We are now recruiting for the MSc Advanced Dementia Studies starting in September 2020