Views expressed in letters to the editor
do not represent opinions of The Gazette-Virginian or staff members.
To the editor:
The South Boston community is uniquely special. We know one another, we support one another, and we care for one another. The past two years have been a challenging time for everyone but it has been especially challenging for those of you who care for a senior loved one.
According to a 2021 AARP study, millions of Americans cared for loved ones with Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia from their home. As a result, these caregivers:
w Spend on average 26% of their personal income on caregiving expenses;
w A third of caregivers use their own personal savings to pay caregiving bills;
w 12% take out loans to pay for caregiving expenses; and
w 67% suffer from financial, mental and physical difficulties.
One of the biggest reasons for the increase in each of these results has been COVID-19.
COVID-19 forced many caregivers to keep their loved ones at home.
Additionally, many of the organizations, support groups and resources that are available to caregivers stopped normal operations during the pandemic.
Here are a few tips to help you in your journey:
1. Set realistic and attainable goals: Decide what you can and can’t do. Move at your loved one’s pace and accept success at 80%.
2. Focus on clear communication: Reduce any extraneous noise (turn off radio, TV, etc.). Do not use pronouns but rather names and specific titles.
3. Remember all behavior has a purpose: Slow down and try seeing the world through your loved one’s eyes.
4. Be flexible: Dementia is a progressive disease and will change over time. Adjust your tactics to see what works.
5. Enjoy the good times: Continue to socialize, have your loved one engage in activities, and appreciate the moments of joy.
6. Reminisce about the past: Watch family videos, look at albums, and listen to music they enjoyed throughout their life.
7. Make time for yourself: Schedule time for yourself each day. Visit with friends and practice mindfulness. This self-care is key to mental and physical health.
8. Attend to your own health care needs: After one year of caregiving, 75% of people report less than excellent of declining health. Schedule regular exams, exercise and eat healthy to combat any negative effects.
9. Educate yourself about the disease: Learn as much as you can about the stages and symptoms of dementia so that you can manage expectations.
10. Ask for and accept help: There are no prizes for suffering in silence. Make lists of small tasks that family and friends can help you with. Short term stays may give you just the break you need to feel rejuvenated.
director of sales and marketing
Commonwealth Senior Living at South Boston