Dementia Support for Families and Carers

Carer gently supporting an elderly person with dementia

Article by 

Maree McCabe

It is important for families and carers to take care of themselves and access available support.

Family members and friends often find themselves in the role of a carer when a loved one is living with dementia. Caring for your loved one can be rewarding and can also have its tougher days. As you care for someone with dementia, you may not be taking as much care of your own emotional, mental or physical well-being.

You need support and assistance to care for someone with dementia to continue balancing your needs with those of your family and the person with dementia. The demands may wear you down, which can make caring more difficult.

Things to Remember

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

There are a large number of carer support groups throughout Australia. Many people find comfort and practical assistance by attending these meetings with others who know what it is like to care for a person with dementia.

Support groups bring together families, carers and friends of people with dementia under the guidance of a group facilitator. The facilitator is usually a health professional or someone with first-hand experience in caring for a person with dementia.

Contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500 for further information.

MANAGING STRESS

Everyone has different ways of managing stress. Managing stress improves your well-being and may positively impact your caring role, so it can be useful to learn some better ways to deal with stress. The Dementia Australia library can assist you in selecting appropriate material on different ways to manage stress. Browse the catalogue online at dementia.org.au/library and contact the nearest library to ask about borrowing and other library services or call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.

What to try:

  • A consistent schedule
  • Talk things over with family, friends and other people in a similar situation.
  • Be realistic about what you can expect of yourself and your loved one living with dementia.

GETTING OUT AND ABOUT

It is very important to continue with activities that you enjoy. Some people say that they feel guilty when they leave the house or enjoy an activity without a person with dementia. However, families and carers have the right to follow their own interests outside their caring role. In fact, it is essential that they do. Someone who has regular breaks will be a better carer. The person living with dementia may also need a break from their carer. Some time apart can be of benefit to everyone.

If you are having trouble coping with feelings of guilt about getting out and about, it may be a good idea to talk these feelings over with a supportive friend or relative or a counsellor at Dementia Australia.

ASKING FOR HELP

Taking care of yourself means asking for assistance now, as well as planning ahead for what help you may need in the future. Help often, but not always, comes from relatives, friends and neighbours. Seeking outside help is important for people. Doctors, psychologists and counsellors all have experience helping people who are caring for others.

WHAT TO TRY:

  • Suggest specific ways that friends and family can help
  • Organise regular breaks for yourself
  • Use Dementia Australia and other support organisation services

FRIENDS AND RELATIVES

Caring for someone with dementia can be made more difficult by a lack of understanding from other people. Helping friends and relatives understand what is happening will make your role easier.

Supporting an Elderly Loved One Through Dementia

WHAT TO TRY:

  • Provide information about dementia
  • Suggest activities for a visit, such as going for a walk
  • Prepare visitors for any problems with communication and suggest ways that they might deal with these

WHO CAN HELP?

There are a number of organisations that offer dementia support for families and carers.

Contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500. An interpreter service is available. The Helpline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. More information at dementia.org.au/ helpline

The Australian Government has established My Aged Care as a national online and phone service to assist older people, their families and carers, to access information about the types of aged care services available. They can help to determine eligibility for services, obtain referrals to service providers, and to determine any costs involved. For more information, call 1800 200 422 or visit myagedcare.gov.au.

For information and support for people under 65, contact the National Disability Insurance Scheme on 1800 800 110 or visit ndis.gov.au.

If you need help finding the right advice, services and support, including respite, you can call the Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737 or view online information at carergateway.gov.au. Carer services in each state and territory are provided by Carers Australia, carersaustralia.com.au will link you to the service in your area or call 1800 242 636.

The Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) is a national free service funded by the Australian Government. It is operated and administered by Dementia Support Australia (DSA). For more information about DBMAS, visit their website, dementia.com.au, or call 1800 699 799.

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In Need of Support?

Carer Gateway is an Australian Government program providing free services and support for carers. Call Carer Gateway for support and access to services, Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm local time.

Assistance with accessing emergency respite is available any time, 24/7.

1800 422 737 

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