Seeking out support is one of the most important steps you can take to come to terms with the feelings of loss and grief that are part of caring for a person. However, building and nurturing relationships takes time and energy- two things that caregivers often have in short supply. While providing care may have become the primary focus of your life, supportive relationships can make a positive difference throughout the caregiving experience and as you prepare for the person’s end of life.
Try to take some time to rebuild and maintain the connections that are important to you. Your circle of support may go beyond your biological family. It’s important to reach out to individuals in your life who are your psychological family, a term that means the people you naturally turn to in times of crisis and celebration. Identify the people in your life who are there for you in good times and bad. These are individuals who may be able to understand the losses and grief you experience, acknowledge your remarkable efforts and successes, and give vital support. Your psychological family can be a diverse group. It might include friends, neighbours, co-workers, and those family members who understand you. The staff at an adult day program or care home, a geriatrician, or a family doctor can also become part of your circle of support. You don’t have to be alone and, as busy as you may be now providing care to the person with dementia, some of these individuals may become even more important to you when the person passes away.
Suggestions for maintaining supportive relationships
- Set up a schedule with a friend for a phone chat and make this a routine for yourself by writing it in your calendar.
- Set up regular lunch meetings with a couple of friends.
- Participate in social outings such as a community nature walk or movie night with a group of friends.
- Invite friends for an informal gathering, such as a pot luck dinner.
- Join online discussion forums.
- Contact and join support groups in your local area.
- Look for volunteer opportunities. Not only will you be contributing to your community, but you can also help others who are in need.
- Pursue activities that you enjoy and inspire you. Start a new hobby.
- Join local groups with similar interests such as walking, reading, sports, singing, knitting, etc. Find out what’s available through your local community centre.
- Count your blessings everyday no matter how small. Keep a journal to write them down.
- Show appreciation to your friends. It can be as simple as saying thank you or sending them a greeting card.
- Demonstrate your support to other family members by being a good listener. Take the time to really hear what they are saying.
- Use social media or cell phone apps to keep in touch with friends or simply send them an email.
- Don't be afraid to reach out to people. People often want to help but don’t know how.
Next section: Supporting children and teens