When confronted by what seems like an overwhelming challenge, have you ever gotten the advice: “it’s a marathon, not a sprint”? In other words, pace yourself, it will be a long journey - especially if you find yourself a caregiver for someone experiencing dementia.
In Minnesota, about 92,000 older adults have Alzheimer’s – the most common form of dementia – and that number is expected to grow to 120,000 by 2025, according to projections from the Alzheimer’s Association. Dementia diagnoses are increasing as we continue to live longer. For those caring for a loved one, learning how to cultivate a marathon mindset can help you get over the finish line.
Ruth Hjelmgren learned about the challenges of caring for someone with dementia from personal experience when her mother was diagnosed with dementia 12 years ago. “Caregivers go through a range of emotions, from grief to anxiety to depression if they do not get the support they need. And then there is the frustration of not feeling qualified to be a caregiver. Some of our best intentions are actually not helpful in caring for loved ones with dementia.”
Now the Community Relations Director for Artis Senior Living, Ruth is able to apply her personal experience and heartfelt compassion toward educating caregivers with her program “Living with Dementia - Caring for the Caregiver”. According to Ruth, learning how to reduce caregiver stress will help lighten the burden which is critical: according to Healthline, the average life expectancy after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is eight to 10 years. In some cases, however, it can be as short as three years or as long as 20 years.
Ruth will address touchy topics like how to ask other family members for support, and how caregivers can lose their own identity. She will also explain the common behavior and personality changes that appear in those with dementia, and how the behaviors your loved one exhibits will be unique to them. Tips for managing the challenges, and your reactions as a caregiver, will help you respond effectively to daily needs as well as planning for long term care. Having a support system in place and knowing about resources will help you be proactive.
“Living with Dementia - Caring for the Caregiver” will be presented on Thursday, March 12 at 2 p.m. at Community Thread, 2300 Orleans St. West in Stillwater. The program is free and registration is requested by calling 651-439-7434.
Caregiving is a marathon. Come learn how to lighten your caregiving load so you can go the distance.
Sally Anderson is the executive director of the Community Thread.