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THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-CARE FOR CAREGIVERS

caregiver journal for wellness stress management

Anyone who has flown on a major airline is familiar with the safety instructions given before take-off, in fact frequent flyers might be able to recite them in their sleep. However, familiarity with an important principle does not make it any less important. In the event of a de-pressurization of the cabin, oxygen masks will appear and will need to be put on. The instructions always remind passengers that, should this happen, they must put their own mask on before they assist anyone else in putting on their mask. This may seem selfish, but it is rooted in stone cold common sense; put simply, if we ourselves are incapacitated in any way, it makes it much harder for us to offer meaningful assistance to anyone else.

And therein lies the gut-wrenching challenge for anyone caring for a loved one. And that applies to the estimated 40 million plus unpaid caregivers in the United States, doing their level best to care for someone they love. It is a role that few of us seek, but which many of us will find ourselves in; the love that binds us together will dictate that we do everything in our power to help those we love. They desperately need our help, so we give it without question to the utmost of our ability and often beyond that which we can physically, mentally or emotionally bear. Yes, caregivers are susceptible to various physical, mental and emotional challenges, and they can become ill due to the demands and stresses of their role. The caregiving responsibilities can be intense, often involving physical exertion, emotional strain, and prolonged periods of stress.

Some common health issues that caregivers may face include:

Physical Health Issues

Caregivers may experience physical health problems such as back pain, muscle strains, fatigue, and compromised immune function due to the physical demands of caregiving, including lifting, assisting with mobility, and performing other strenuous activities.

Mental Health Challenges

Caregiving can take a significant toll on mental health. Caregiving often involves high levels of stress, due to the emotional burden of providing care, especially in challenging circumstances, or for individuals with chronic conditions; all of this can contribute to mental health issues. Persistent stress can lead to burnout, a state of physical,
emotional, and mental exhaustion.

Sleep Disorders

The stress and demands of caregiving can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or other sleep disorders. Sleep deprivation can further contribute to physical and mental health problems.

Neglecting Personal Health Needs

Caregivers are likely prioritize the health needs of the person they are caring for over their own; as a result they can neglect regular check-ups, preventive care, and necessary medical attention for their own health concerns.

Impact on Relationships

The strain of caregiving can affect relationships with family and friends. Caregivers may find it challenging to balance caregiving duties with maintaining healthy relationships, leading to potential conflicts and stress. It’s crucial for caregivers to recognize these potential challenges and to prioritize their own self-care. Seeking support from family, friends, or support groups, taking breaks, practicing stress-reduction techniques, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are essential strategies to help caregivers safeguard their own health while fulfilling their caregiving responsibilities. Regular communication with healthcare professionals can also aid in addressing any emerging health concerns.

How to Sustain Quality Care

Firstly, understand just how important self-care for caregivers really is. A caregiver’s ability to provide effective care is directly linked to their own well-being. When caregivers are physically and emotionally exhausted, their capacity to offer quality care diminishes. Taking time for self-care helps maintain the energy and focus needed to provide optimal support. Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion resulting from the prolonged and overwhelming stress of caregiving. Regular self-care helps prevent burnout, allowing caregivers to continue providing care without compromising their own health. Caregivers who do find a way to practice self-care tend to be more resilient in the face of challenges.

By maintaining their physical and emotional well-being, they are better equipped to cope with stress and adapt to changing circumstances. Taking time for personal interests, hobbies, and relaxation contributes to a sense of fulfillment and happiness. This, in turn, enhances the overall quality of life for caregivers.

In summary, taking some time and space to care for oneself must never be seen as selfish, or a neglect of caring responsibilities; instead it must be seen as a critically important release mechanism to recharge batteries, re-center, take a breath and a little space, to ensure that they can continue to provide sustained, high-quality care to others.

Here’s a checklist put together by the National Institute on Aging for signs that you may be suffering from Caregiver stress: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/caregiving/taking-care-yourself-tips-caregivers


Feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, or anxious Becoming easily angered or impatient
Feeling lonely or disconnected from others
Having trouble sleeping or not getting enough sleep
Feeling sad or hopeless, or losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
Having frequent headaches, pain, or other physical problems
Not having enough time to exercise or prepare healthy food for yourself
Skipping showers or other personal care tasks such as brushing your teeth
Misusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications


Is there anything you can do to help alleviate these challenges? Well, top of the list is to Ask for Help. This may seem obvious but often Carers are embarrassed to actually let people know that they are struggling. Family and friends are a great place to start – even if it is grabbing groceries for you when they are at the store, or popping in for a coffee, or to give you an hour off to take an hour off or run errands.

In addition, help is available from your doctor, or counselors, or from your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association
( www.alz.org )

A Mind to Care also has a 52-week Journal, designed to help Caregivers with a weekly check in to help manage stress, find breathing space, re-center and find nurture and self confidence in the challenges they face, click here: https://www.amazon.com/Caring-Caregiver-self-reflection-cultivating-compassionate/dp/B0CNYXC2C2/

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Understanding the Benefits of Cognitive Stimulation Therapy for Dementia Patients

cognitive stimulation therapy

Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) is a non-pharmacological treatment for people living with dementia. It is a structured program that involves engaging in group activities and discussions designed to improve cognitive function, memory, and quality of life for people with dementia. CST is a person-centered therapy that focuses on the individual’s strengths, abilities, and interests. In this blog, we will discuss the benefits of CST for dementia patients.

Cognitive Stimulation Improves Cognitive Function

Cognitive Stimulation Therapy has been shown to be effective in improving cognitive function and sort-term memory in people with dementia.

The program is designed to stimulate the brain and encourage participants to engage in activities that require cognitive processing, such as memory games, puzzles, word games, and discussions.

Research has shown that CST can improve memory, attention, and language skills in people with dementia, which can help them to maintain their independence and improve their quality of life.

Reduces Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia

Behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) are common among people with dementia. These symptoms include agitation, aggression, anxiety, depression, and social withdrawal. CST has been shown to reduce the severity of these symptoms, leading to improved well-being and quality of life for people with dementia. The program provides a structured and supportive environment that can help to reduce anxiety and increase socialization among participants.

CST Increases Socialization and Communication

Socialization and communication are important factors in improving the quality of life for people with dementia.

CST provides a structured environment that encourages socialization and communication among participants. Group discussions and activities provide opportunities for participants to interact with each other and engage in meaningful conversations. This can help to reduce social isolation and improve mood in people with dementia.

Supports Caregivers

CST is not just beneficial for people with dementia; it can also provide support for caregivers. Caregivers often experience high levels of stress and burnout, which can affect their ability to provide care for their loved ones.

CST provides a structured and supportive environment for people with dementia, which can help to reduce the burden on caregivers. In addition, caregivers can participate in the program, which can provide them with a much- needed break and support system.

In conclusion, Cognitive Stimulation Therapy is an effective non-pharmacological treatment for people living with dementia. It provides a structured and supportive environment that encourages socialization, communication, and cognitive stimulation. CST can improve cognitive function, reduce BPSD, and improve quality of life for people with dementia. It can also provide support for caregivers, which can help to reduce stress and burnout. If you are caring for someone with dementia, consider incorporating Cognitive Stimulation Therapy into their care plan.

A Mind to Care Game & Activity Therapy System provides CST Activities

The use of A Mind to Care Game & Activity system includes cognitive stimulation activities, such as word games, puzzles, ability to use pictures to discuss present or past events or other topics of interest, and more. Our game and activity therapy system may be a nice way to start with cognitive stimulation therapy with your loved one living with dementia.

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How Colors can impact Dementia Care

dementia and colors alzheimers

Dementia and Colors

Could it really be true that different colors can actually have an impact on our moods? Interestingly, a lot of research* has been done over a number of years on the effect of different colors on the brain and human behavior, and it is increasingly apparent that different colors are interpreted differently by our brains and that they can actually have a subliminal impact on how we feel at any given moment. As a result, it does appear that careful choice and use of color can be helpful in improving quality of care for people living with dementia.

Contrast

The use of contrast in colors can be used to help define objects more clearly. So using a color with high contrast with its immediate background will draw attention to key features. In fact, the use of contrasting colors is very helpful in marking the edges of things; it can draw attention to furniture, or hazards that might cause someone to trip, or even to more easily find the toilet seat in an all-white bathroom.

Extending this principle into other areas, you might differentiate the colors that you choose for pillows, sheets and blankets, or to using dinner plates that are a different color to a tablecloth, for example. Other suggestions include using a contrasting wall color, so that it will be easier for someone to locate switches, sockets and handrails.

Red

There are studies that suggest that the color red can increase brain activity. It can also lead to a perception that a room is warm. Additionally, red can increase appetite and encourage eating when featured in plates and cups. It also figures that any dinnerware that is a different color to the food placed on it is helpful to someone living with dementia. Further research indicates that the color red can also promote participation; for example, red shoes might actually encourage someone to enjoy a walk. Oddly though, a  caregiver might want to avoid wearing red clothes, as the color red can also sometimes be perceived as intimidating

Green

The color green is associated with nature, and lighter shades of green can promote relaxation and calm. It is perceived as a restful color and can help to reduce central nervous activity. The use of green may also lead a room to be perceived as larger than it actually is.

Lime green, more specifically, has been shown to be effective for people living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, in providing visual cues to the location of doors to bathrooms, or bedrooms.

In addition, research has shown that the color green is one of the last colors that we lose the ability to see, so placing a piece of green tape on a cane, or a walker, or other items that people need to use every day, can be very useful. Not surprisingly, green is a good color for Caregivers to wear as it fosters feelings of engagement, relaxation and calm.

Purple

Purple is a color that has been shown to stimulate the imagination and also spirituality. Purple objects are often perceived as being valuable.

This belief dates back thousands of years as the physical resources needed to create a purple dye was very hard to come by; purple is uncommon in nature and was therefore very costly to create. As a result, only the elite could use purple dye. The association of the color purple with royalty and extravagance persists even today.

So, it might be a good idea to choose purple as a way to encourage someone to think of an object as desirable.

Yellow

The color yellow has been shown to increase feelings of happiness; people tend to smile more in yellow rooms, and individuals with dementia tend to stay longer in rooms that are painted yellow.

Blue

Blue is a color that promotes relaxation; blue rooms can reduce any feelings of confusion and increase concentration. Blue has been shown to be a restful color, with a calming effect. Research shows that using blue in the physical environment can actually lower blood pressure, and that blue rooms are seemingly cooler than rooms painted in shades of red or orange.

White

This may seem like stating the obvious, but white is a difficult color to see. As a result, an all-white room can appear to be circular to someone with dementia. It might be a good idea to paint an accent wall in a different color or create a colorful focal point somewhere in a white room.

Black

Also perhaps unsurprisingly, the color black can be associated with fear or sadness. As a result, if you wear black it might make it difficult to communicate with someone who has dementia. A black carpet would also be a poor choice, as it may appear like a large black hole to someone living with the condition. Conversely, a black mat in front of an external door might be a good disincentive.

Caring for Someone with Dementia and Colors Used in their Environment

As you are able to select colors of objects and surrounding of your loved one living with dementia, keep in mind the findings of studies on color and its impact on mood and perception.  Some ideas of how you might utilize colors: Walls could be painted green or blue. Use plates that are red.  Mark important doors, like bathrooms and  bedrooms with lime green tape, but paint the door going outside black so they are less likely to wander out accidentally.  Be sure steps or any other potential hazards are clear with a high contrast color to its immediate surroundings. Wear green. 

*Related articles:

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Taking Care of the Caregiver Benefits Both

The well-being of the family caregiver can have a direct impact on the quality of life of the dementia patient.

Family Caregiver –  Labor of Love

It is the hope of most folks to be in their own home for as long as possible. Home caregivers (usually family members) make this possible longer for people who suffer from dementia or other neurological or physiological conditions by helping their loved ones adapt to and cope with limitations in ability, mobility, communication and cognition.

The caregiver is constantly working to stabilize or lessen the progression of disorders with exercise, nutrition, activity, hygiene and generally some mix of medicinal schedules. It can be a very hard and often heartbreaking job, yet so many take it on as a labor of love.

A Healthy Caregiver Benefits Both Themselves and the Patient

Studies have shown that “the health and general well-being” of a family caregiver can have a direct impact on the quality of life and success of therapy for dementia patients in their care.

Additionally, research indicates that dementia patients have higher rates of behavioral symptoms and mortality when cared for by carers who are stressed, use emotion-based coping (e.g., wishing that the disease would go away), or negative communication strategies.

Effective Coping

If you are a family caregiver, finding an effective coping mechanism for both you and the loved one you are caring for are important. Everyone’s health and well-being are interconnected and interdependent.

Happily, there are many resources for the family caregiver to call on to help with the daunting and difficult task of providing home care for their loved one. Understanding the changing needs and communication strategies of their charges is an important factor in successfully managing a home care situation.

One such sources was provided by the Lewy Body Dementia association, found online here.  This document helps to set expectations about caring for people with dementia, and also offers a helpful section titled “Care for the Caregiver” that includes common sense suggestions for maintaining personal equilibrium in the face of such demanding and difficult work.

Use tools and resources to make caregiving easier and pleasant for you and your loved one. As possible, share in activities you both enjoy like games, puzzles, and looking at old photographs. Our Game & Activity Therapy System is made just for this – to help engage those with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other cognitive impairment in a positive activity.

How Do You  Know You Need Help?

Caregivers are less likely to prioritize themselves and may not spend time on preventive health services such as checkups. They are therefore at higher risk of health issues, even increased risk of premature death. 

Do you have any of these signs?

  • insomnia
  • exhaustion
  • ill-tempered
  • feeling of being sad
  • loss on interest in hobbies you once enjoyed
  • skipping personal care tasks
  • overuse of alcohol or drugs

The National Institute of Aging provides suggestions for caregivers to care for themselves.

Get Support

Remember, it is NOT selfish to take care of yourself when you are a caregiver. It’s important for you to do so for both your own well-being, as well as the person you are caring for. 

Join a caregiver support group. A support group can help you share your feelings in a safe environment among those who can understand what you might be feeling. 

Our Caring for the Caregiver is a 52-week paperback journal, designed to cultivate self-reflection, gratitude, well-being, and stress management for caregivers.

Utilizing a trusted in-home care agency can provided needed respite is another option.

Many other sources for information and helpful resources for the caregiver can be found online, with many different organizations providing helpful resources for home caregiving needs.

We’re Here to Help

A Mind to Care was created to contribute quality of life to others.  So if you need help with finding and connecting with useful resources, drop us an email at customerservice@amindtocare.com and we’ll be happy to pass on any information we have available.