Caring Currents

10 Feel-Good Dementia Caregiver New Year Resolutions

Vintage New Years Postcard
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New Year's resolutions about how you ought to start another diet and ought to be nicer belong back in the Aughts ('00s). For this new decade, caregivers looking after someone with dementia are better off focusing on tasks that will help them power through another demanding year.

The following resolutions may be unexpected, but they're heartfelt and truly helpful:

1. I will order my priorities so that I come first.

Selfish? More like practical common sense, because if you fall apart physically or emotionally, you put the welfare of those you care for in jeopardy.

2. I won't beat myself up if I lose my patience.

Because you know you will. (Both lose your patience and berate yourself for it.) Dementia care can be immensely frustrating. You wouldn't be human if you didn't vent. Try to mostly vent to others with well-functioning brains (or to a pillow or a workout), but cut yourself slack if you occasionally bloop and take it out on the person with dementia.

3. I will spend less time chasing cures and more time embracing today's "new normal."

Obviously you want to practice some of the many ways [how to slow the progress of Alzheimer's disease] ( But don't get stuck in "battle mode" when there's no cure; better to reserve your energy for maximizing the quality of each day, which may not be like the day before.

4. I won't sweat the medium stuff.

If you've dealt with dementia for any length of time, you probably don't sweat the small glitches of life much anymore (keys in the trash, repetitive stories). Now add even bigger things to the list of things you'll be impervious to "“- so long as nobody's in danger, it's amazing what can be "okay."

5. I will read something that lets me wallow in my sadness a little.

Escapism has its plusses, but so does insight. And there's a title for nearly every circumstance. Three great recent choices: Mother in the Middle by Sybil Lockhart (a neurobiologist is pregnant when her mom is diagnosed with Alzheimer's); I (Still) Do: Loving and Living With Alzheimer's by Judith Fox (a photographer about her husband); Pig Candy: Taking My Father South, Taking My Father Home by Lise Funderburg (making a dying dad's wishes come true).

6. I won't force.

Here's one that makes things easier for you. When you get to that point where you're exerting excessive energy trying to make something happen, step back. It's probably not worth it, whether you've been forcing someone to take a pill, forcing him or her to get in the car, or forcing some personal matter. Reassess whether it really matters. Drop it. Try later.

7. I will eat more chocolate.

Call it a corollary to #1. Make it dark and keep the portion moderate, and you can keep this resolution every single day. Katherine Hepburn reportedly did "“ no cost to her waist, big boost to her mood.

8. I will stay engaged even if I get very little back "“ because I am getting something back.

I'll tell my loved one about my day even though he or she is unresponsive. I'll touch my loved one even if he or she never reaches for me. I'll smile even though my loved one frowns. Thing is, these actions do more than benefit the person with dementia. You, too, get a stress-dropping payoff from reaching out "“ a bonus of being human.

9. I won't forget the saying, "There but for the grace of God go I."

Good for helping you bite your tongue the 51st time you're asked (in 60 minutes), "What time is it?"

10. I will do what I can to protect my own brain health.

You have a front-row view on the toll dementia can take. Make that -"“ not thinner thighs or fewer wrinkles "“- be your incentive for taking charge of your health as best you can this new year and new decade.