Caregiving has been defined as the willingness to go at another person’s pace. Just like a pace car in auto racing, there is the person who sets the pace in caring, and the person who follows along. The pace car in racing sets the tempo of the other cars before the race officially begins. The person setting the pace in caregiving can be the care receiver or the caregiver. Ideally, a care receiver with dementia should set the pace, with the caregiver following.
Tell-tale Signs of Moving Too Fast
A care receiver with dementia may not want to do what is needed, such as eat breakfast or go to the doctor. The care receiver will show signals and cues to relay their feelings. For example, the care receiver may become still, unwilling to move. The care receiver may become agitated. There may be repeated questions and reluctance. This is especially true if the caregiver is in a hurry. Attempting to get a care receiver to move at a quicker pace is not helpful or beneficial. Also, a raised voice or attempting to physically move the care receiver along at your pace will not work.
A person with dementia will respond to your cues and match your feelings. If you start to get stressed out, so will your care receiver. When things are not progressing, it is time to slow down the pace. That can mean acknowledging the care receiver’s feelings and providing support. It can also mean listening and playing detective to determine the feelings behind the behavior.
What’s Your Caregiving Pace?
It also helps if you are pacing yourself as a caregiver. Are you taking on too much in your care receiver’s care? Who else can provide help? Sometimes a person with dementia responds better to one person than another. Finding another person who is better suited to take the care receiver to a doctor appointment can be helpful. If having someone come to the house to be with your care receiver to look at photos for reminiscence, to share a meal, or just be there, you can take a break.
Just like a pace car needs to have oil changes, full tires, and an engine that works, it takes maintenance and care to provide care for your care receiver and yourself. Both need care and support. When you are attempting to work with your care receiver, do some diagnostics to check where your care receiver is. Are they tired? Could they be hungry or thirsty? Are they in pain? What are their triggers? What are yours? By considering these, you can help your care receiver and yourself in the caregiving race.
It may feel like you are constantly racing. Despite the need to get everything done, take time to slow down, even if it’s for a few minutes during the day at different times. Take care of yourself to take care of others at a pace that works for you and your care receiver.
Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is a Grant Manager at AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative research-based aging and dementia training programs such as Dementia Live® and Compassionate Touch®, for professional and family caregivers; firstname.lastname@example.org