When caregiving for a dementia patient, an unexpected side effect may by an increased feeling of isolation. There is the feeling (often justified) that you must be on duty 24 hours a day. Not only is that hard on your psyche, but it’s hard on your body, too. Reaching out is important and more doable than you might think.
The first thing to do is to figure out how to talk about your loved one’s illness to your friends and family. When it comes to bringing up illness or death, people are often concerned how others may react. The fact is that honesty is truly the best policy. This is particularly the case when you now find yourself caring for someone with dementia-related disease. Your family and friends are already predisposed to respond empathetically. As people listen and learn, they become more comfortable with it. Knowledge is power.
It is also important to express how this is affecting you as the caregiver. Others often focus on the infirm, telling others how you feel is often a good way to elicit offers of support. Many friends and family will offer help if they see that help is needed. Be courageous in asking for help; take them up on their offers and let them know that even texting you with a funny or thoughtful comment can be a great help in its own way.
Expect different reactions from different people. It may take a while for some to absorb and respond to the news. The good news is that there are support organizations that are working to increase awareness and make these conversations around dementia a little easier. One such organization in Dementia Friends, a group that offers training modules to volunteers to help make their communities more “dementia-friendly.”