Don’t Be a Grouch: Beat the Caregiver Winter Blues

Grouch, Grinch, Scrooge...for caregivers and their loved ones with dementia, winter’s blah-humbugs can turn the best of us into grumpy characters best enjoyed on screen.

“For many caregivers, winter is the crankiest time of the year,” says Halie Dickinson, Community Relations Director at YourLife™ of Tallahassee, a Memory Care community in Tallahassee, Florida. “Shorter, colder days can cause their loved ones with memory loss to exhibit frustrating sundowning behaviors, caregivers might be experiencing seasonal affectation disorder, or the usual holiday stress was compounded this year by safety concerns, being stuck at home, and other worries related to the pandemic.”

In this post, we’ll help you recognize why you might be feeling particularly irritable so you can address the root cause, shed your 2020 funk, and take on 2021 with more joy in your heart.

Your loved one’s obstinance, wandering, or incessant questions can certainly drive you to the edge, and we address how to cope with these dementia symptoms in previous posts you may find helpful. But if you suspect your lack of patience and not-so-sunny disposition have roots deeper than your loved one’s care needs, you may consider the following:

Could you be experiencing symptoms of cabin fever or seasonal affectation disorder (SAD)?

People who live in climates minimally affected by winter’s dreary days, isolation due to freezing temperatures and perilous driving conditions may be experiencing their own version of SAD this winter. Yes, even in Florida. If any of the below symptoms feel familiar, a heavy dose of self-care may be in order. VeryWell Mind also has specific tips for coping with the effects of isolation, and the Mayo Clinic can help you get a handle on SAD, as well as steer you to appropriate therapies and professional support resources should your symptoms persist or worsen.

  • Decreased motivation
  • Difficulty waking
  • Food cravings
  • Frequent napping
  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of patience
  • Lethargy
  • Sadness or depression
  • Trouble concentrating

Are you grieving or feeling a sense of loss for the person your loved one was?

Underlying – and unaddressed – emotions such as anger, fear, and other feelings that family caregivers struggle with have a way of showing up in their tone of voice, body language, and other interactions with their loved one. Without context, short tempers born in caregiver grief can be scary and upsetting for people with dementia.

A dementia care support group can help tremendously, both in terms of reconciling your feelings and providing insight into your loved one’s stage progression and behaviors so you can prepare for changes. In the meantime, when you feel a negative emotion surfacing, try one of Caregiver.org’s tailored coping tips.

Is there something else going on in your life that’s causing you stress?

When caring for someone with advancing dementia becomes a 24/7 job, neatly compartmentalizing your various responsibilities, commitments, and relationships in your life is a neat idea but not so neat in practice. Try some of these caregiver balancing act tips from our sister community in Coconut Creek, Florida.

Are your loved one’s care needs straining relationships with your siblings?

Are they – or you – second-guessing your decisions? Or maybe a sibling is starring in one of these seven common scenarios that make caring for your loved one more exasperating than it has to be. While avoiding difficult family members may not be possible, you can limit your exposure to negativity. Take a break from their (and other friends’) social media debates and drama-filled feeds, for example.

Is your loved one’s bad mood affecting yours?

It’s always important to figure out why your loved one is cranky. Are they hungry, tired, or in pain? Was there a break in their routine? Are they susceptible to sundowning syndrome or experiencing cabin fever or SAD themselves? Alleviating their symptoms is not only vital to your loved one’s well-being but can reset the mood in your entire household.

 

With all of the above, recognize and take advantage of the calm before the storm. Be on the lookout for physical signs that you are getting angry and/or frustrated, such as breathing heavier, tension in your muscles, clenching your fist or jaw, sweating, or raising your voice.

Being conscious of the signs while “in the moment” will help you pause to take a few deep breaths and remind yourself that: A. Your loved one’s behaviors are simply the straw(s) breaking the already moody, overworked camel’s back, or B. your loved one’s frustrating behaviors are a result of their disease, not a deliberate attempt to hurt or antagonize you. Either realization can stop you from misdirecting your frustration in the heat of the moment.

 

To learn how our experts help families deal with the emotional challenges of caregiving, call YourLife™ of Tallahassee today at ​850-250-5671.

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Inspired ● Engaged ● Fulfilled

If someone you love is living with memory loss, you want the very best for them. You’ll find it at YourLife™ of Tallahassee. Because Memory Care is all that we do, we have the unique ability to focus all our energy, attention, and resources on creating an environment that caters to each resident’s needs, preferences, and abilities while providing unequaled peace of mind and support for families.

We care for each resident as an individual because we understand that each resident has their own story. Using this idea, we develop personally inspired care plans that value and support each person’s independence while creating beautiful days. No matter how much care they need, our team of attentive, caring YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists can assist with all activities of daily living while providing reminders, guidance, support, and cues. Even better, residents and their families experience true peace of mind knowing that expert care is on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Our personal touch doesn’t stop with our care. In fact, it’s only the beginning. We create days that leave residents feeling Inspired. Engaged. Fulfilled through our signature programming, YourStory. With individual experiences centered around each resident, engaging outings, services and amenities, activities, dining, and more, we create opportunities to learn and pursue new endeavors. At YourLife™ of Tallahassee, everything was designed for you, but it is defined by you, creating a lifestyle that makes every day a joy. Contact us to learn more!

Call us at 850-250-5671 for more information or to schedule a personal visit today.

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