Dementia caregiving can be demanding, no matter the circumstances. A caregiver who finds themself homebound with a loved one faces particularly challenging conditions. Whether stuck indoors due to illness, mobility issues, weather, or a global pandemic—here are five tips to help caregiving for dementia when you’re homebound. Fortunately, all five tips have clear benefits for both the caregiver and their loved one.
1. Provide a Change of Scenery
For someone stuck inside for the majority of each day, the world can seem small and unexciting. While your loved one may prefer to spend most of their time in a bedroom or living room, encourage him or her to move around their residence. Move them to the dining space for meals or to the porch for fresh air and natural light.
Slight changes in scenery can provide environmental autonomy, so both you and your loved one do not feel closed-in. Particularly for those with dementia, providing autonomy may reduce the chance of exit-seeking and agitation. If circumstances allow, a ride around town can do wonders for both you and your loved one’s mental health. However, if moving about is too taxing, consider looking at pictures online or in an album to create an imaginative scene. Either way, being confined to the same four walls can take a toll on both of you, so make an effort to provide a change of scenery.
2. Create a Feasible Routine
Creating and following a daily routine can be advantageous when caregiving for dementia. From similar morning activities to a winding down bedtime routine, consistency can help your days run smoothly. Established and consistent daily activities can provide those with dementia a calm and reassuring environment.
Further, making your days predictable will allow you as a caregiver time for self-care. Find times when your loved one is resting to do something you love: read a book, take a walk, or catch up with friends. As you create a routine, be sure that it works well for both you and your loved one. While flexibility is key to any routine, begin with realistic expectations and a schedule that is feasible for you both.
3. Continue to Exercise
Do not think you can’t still get exercise while you and your loved one are stuck indoors! Certain activities may be off-limits due to space or mobility issues, but you can get creative.
Chair yoga or light stretching can be beneficial and don’t require a large space or equipment. Or, add some fun to fitness by dancing to your loved one’s favorite songs! As a caregiver, simply join your loved one in their physical activities. Any exercise can provide increased energy levels, improved moods, and better sleep—who wouldn’t want to reap those benefits?
What’s more, aerobic exercise may protect against dementia symptoms. This is great news for your loved one who may have memory impairment or any aging adult.
4. Challenge Your Mind
At any age, exercising our minds is just as important as caring for our bodies. While older adults are more likely to develop memory disorders, symptoms of cognitive impairment can appear in younger adults as well. As such, caregivers should try to boost both the brain health of their loved one and themselves to reduce the potential chance of cognitive decline.
Consider helping your loved one with a puzzle to improve problem-solving or completing a crossword to aid in word association. Find activities that you both enjoy that also stimulate the mind to help you stay happy and healthy while homebound.
5. Seek Relaxation and Stress Relief
There is no doubt that caregiving for dementia comes with many stressors. Unfortunately, being homebound can be equally stressful. From changing relationships to a decline in physical activity, being stuck at home can take a toll on you both. Fortunately, there are ways to improve mental health from your home.
Practicing mindfulness and meditation can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and overall stress levels. Also, simply experiencing joy can reduce stress. Make a point to do something each day that brings joy to you and your loved one. Spend time with your friends or family (utilize technology like FaceTime or Zoom if needed) or have a special showing of a favorite, classic film. Making time for people and things you love may be the key to finding balance in your life at home.
Remember, When Caregiving for Dementia, Homebound Life Can Still Be Fulfilling
For both older adults and caregivers who are homebound, life may not seem as fulfilling as it once was. However, practicing healthy habits for both the mind and body can help caregivers and their loved ones enjoy a high quality of life. Choose one of the above tips (or a few!) to put into action today to help improve your caregiving role while stuck inside.