Out of love, I brought my mum to live with us when my dad passed on seven years ago. It was fun because my mum was always the best cook and she loved working with my kids to ensure they do their homework on time. She also loved cleaning and she would do our cleaning most of the days.
Three years ago, I realized that something was different with my mum. She would go to buy groceries and take more than four hours. When I asked her where she had been, she would stay quiet. One day, she went to pick my son from school and took three hours to get back home. When I asked her where they had been, my son shouted they got lost. When she was finally diagnosed with dementia, I knew things would change but I didn’t know just how much.
I have taken care of her since then. Last year, it occurred to me that I was not the same. I would hurl angry outburst at my children. I would get irritated by small issues, I could not sleep, I had lost weight because eating was a problem and I was always anxious. I also experienced headache most of the days. My doctor said I was experiencing caregiver burnout.
I have since been coping with it; and I have achieved great results.
1. I Sought Help from My Relatives
Much as I hate to admit, it wears me off at times to take care of my mum and my three kids all day every day. My mum’s condition is worsening; she cannot remember much. She doesn’t remember to eat, I have to remind her to take her meds, take a shower and do almost everything else. I decided to reach out to my sisters and cousins who live in my neighborhood and they come over to help me at times.
This way, I do not shoulder the responsibility of taking care of my mum alone. When they are taking care of my mum, I take care of myself.
2. I Use Technology Solutions
These little devices can do wonders. I bought my mum medical bracelets and a watch. The watch monitors my mum’s vitals and notifies me when her pulse rate is amiss. I have set the watch to remind my mum to take her meds at different times of the day. If she wanders off our compound and does not know how to get back, we can easily locate her with these devices.
Against my husband’s advice, I installed a video camera. Sometimes during the day, when I am at work, I check out how she is faring at home alone.
3.I Take Breaks from Caregiving, Take a Vacation At Times
There are times I place my mum on respite care and take a break from caregiving. When she was first diagnosed, I thought against leaving her in the hands of strangers. Afterwards, I identified a good place to leave her when I am out taking care of myself.
After a vacation, I usually come back ready to take care of my mum. Though taking care of her and taking care of my children is wearing, when I am away, I miss her. Taking a few days off, helps me clear my mind. It helps me build my social life so I don’t feel alone.
4. I Attend Local Support Groups
There are hundreds of women taking care of their mums. They are okay with it because at the end of the day, love wins. I have met many women through support groups. Some are taking care of mothers or fathers who have dementia and Alzheimer’s. They make me love my mum more. We share ideas on how to best take care of our parents. We urge each other on. We appreciate the few hours break we get when we meet. Most importantly, it shows me that I am not alone.
When in support groups, I can openly share my frustrations and disappointments. This way, I go home feeling ready to take on caregiving.
5. I Create Weekly Schedules
Every week, I make a schedule of activities for my mum. This way, I am able to adapt to a routine for me and my whole family. Because I am still working, I have to wake up early and ensure everything is ready for the day. If I leave my mum sleeping, I will call her to remind her daily activities.
When I have a list of weekly or daily activities, it makes it easier for me to delegate when I feel tired. Again, my mum gets used to the routine and with the reminders; she is able to thrive almost independently.
I take care of myself. I do not feel guilty like I used to three years ago. Today, I eat healthy meals, exercise, go out with friends and do everything I would do if I were not living with my mum.