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Caring about the Carers of People with Dementia National Carers' Week

There is an estimated 180,000 people in Ireland who are, or who have been, carers for a family member or partner with dementia. With 55,000 people currently living with dementia in Ireland, and that number expected to more than double by 2036, more and more of us are going to find ourselves in a situation where we are supporting a person with dementia.

National Carers’ Week takes place from June 11 to 17, and the Dementia: Understand Together campaign is highlighting the valuable role carried out by carers of people with dementia.

National Carers’ Week offers a valuable opportunity to reflect on the carer and how we can support them.

Caring is hugely rewarding, but it can also be challenging. Many of those who have received a diagnosis of dementia, their families and loved ones, speak of feeling isolated within their own communities, of being written out of daily life, because family, friends and neighbours don’t know what to do or say, and so they stay away.

If you know someone who is a carer, don’t be shy or think that they are too busy to see you. Drop by for a chat, offer to do the shopping, or sit with their family member for an hour so that they can pop out for a break.

Don’t underestimate the difference that friendship and emotional support can make. It goes a long way towards improving the health and well-being of the carer and lessens the sense of loneliness they can experience.

If you’re a carer, don’t forget to take care of you too. Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Seek help. Talk to your Local Health Office or public health nurse about the supports and services available to you, such as day care and respite centres, or the social clubs and support groups run by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. You could also contact the Alzheimer Society of Ireland helpline on Freephone 1800 341 341 or Family Carers Ireland on Freephone Careline 1800 24 07 24 for information, support and advice in your caring role.
  2. Consider training. Training courses for carers that offer practical skills to care for a person with dementia are available online and in physical locations around the country. You can find out more about training options at www.familycarertraining.ie.
  3. Try out the latest “mod cons”. There are many different assistive technologies and devices, such as calendar clocks and easy-to-use phones, that can help people with dementia to continue to carry out everyday tasks, stay safe, and maintain their independence.  A guide about assistive technology is available on the Alzheimer Society of Ireland website.
  4. Think about the future. Talk to a solicitor about Enduring Power of Attorney. This sets out how a person with dementia would like to manage legal, financial and personal care decisions if there comes a time when they cannot make these decisions for themselves. It’s also important to consider financial implications if a change of care arrangements is required at some point in the future.
  5. Take time out. If your needs are taken care of, the person you are caring for benefits too. Try to eat a balanced diet, to go for a walk each day, to apply mindfulness and relaxation techniques, and to get a good night's sleep. Keep in touch with people as having a circle of friends and family to talk to can ensure that you are less stressed, more positive and better able to care for your family member. Shared interests and activities are a great way for you both to spend fun time together too – have a chat with the person with dementia and look at ways to keep them engaged and involved. For example, you could enjoy a game of golf or tennis together, or make a weekly date with an Alzheimer café or dementia choir.

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