Who takes care of the caregiver? That will be the focus of the next in a series of workshops being held in Ashcroft by the Alzheimer Society of B.C. (ASBC), and Tara Hildebrand says it’s a question that is too often overlooked.
Hildebrand is the ASBC’s Support and Education Coordinator for the Central Interior, and will be running the free workshop, which takes place on May 3 from 1:00 to 3:00pm at the Ashcroft HUB on Hill Street. The session is designed specifically for those who are looking after someone with dementia.
“It’s very different for people who are caregivers for those with dementia,” says Hildebrand. “People with other illnesses and medical conditions can still communicate, indicate they’re in pain, and very often they’ll recover. People with dementia are suffering a mental loss, unlearning who they are, and forgetting others. It’s a continual decline that will never stop.”
She says that those looking after people with dementia function as best they can, and that the goal of the workshop is to help them maintain a quality of life. “The number one piece of advice we have is ‘Put yourself first’, but many people don’t. They drop everything and take care of the person with dementia, but it’s a disease that lasts for years, and we don’t realize how much of a toll that takes on the caregiver.
“Add to that the grief of watching a person deteriorate in front of you, someone you can’t share your grief with. In the case of a spouse you are missing who your partner used to be.”
Hildebrand says that the workshop helps people understand what it means to look after themselves. “While it may be difficult for caregivers to prioritize their own needs, they must try.” Self-care improves the quality of life of both the caregiver and the person they are looking after. “It is vital that caregivers take care of their own physical and mental health.”
Participants in the workshop will gain an understanding of how certain messages, demands, or beliefs can lead to stress and burnout. “Caregivers have to let go of who the dementia sufferer used to be, and accept them as they are today. A caregiver will say of the sufferer ‘She wouldn’t like such-and-such.’ That may have been true 15 years ago, but that person is different today.”
Caregivers will also learn how to recognize the signs of burnout, and discover ways of dealing with caregiver stress. “Many people don’t have the coping skills. We help them with that, and give them more tools in their toolbox.”
The final workshop in the series will be in June, and will deal with financial and personal planning. It is open to anyone who wants to attend, and Hildebrand urges community members to learn more about planning for their future.
Pre-registration for the caregiver and financial planning workshops is necessary. To register, or for more information, call Hildebrand at 1-800-886-6946 or e-mail email@example.com.