Caring for Caregivers

I spent the greater part of last week attending the Elder and Special Needs Law Annual National Conference provided by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (“NAELA”).  NAELA is a professional association of over 4,200 attorneys across the nation who are dedicated to improving the quality of legal services provided to seniors and people with special needs.  The focus of the Academy is to provide its members continuing legal education programs on a broad range of Elder Law topics, including public benefits, estate planning and probate, health and long term care planning, among other important issues.

During this conference, a number of the sessions focused on the increasing need of family caregivers to keep aging seniors at home, instead of having to move them into senior care facilities.  However, with this increasing need comes the stress of being an at-home caregiver, often in addition to working part or full time while raising a family of their own.  Commitment to family is paramount; however, just as important is the need for family caregivers to commit to their own physical and mental health and wellness.

For family caregivers of loved ones with dementia, the stress of care giving can become even greater, especially considering the isolation that often comes with a dementia patient’s declining communication skills.  At times, both the care recipient with dementia and the caregiver may be going through the same feelings of isolation, as they may not be able to communicate the same way they once did. 

Instead of continuing to suffer through these feelings of isolation, a family caregiver may find it rewarding to try to re-establish communication lines with their loved one by revisiting activities they both may have enjoyed earlier in life.  By re-establishing the communication lines, without trying to force actual conversation, it may be possible to re-establish the meaningful connection that people respond to on a deeper level, regardless of their actual ability to communicate.

For more information about establishing meaningful connections with dementia patients, read this.

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