“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” – Attributed to both Jim Goodwin and Sydney J. Harris

Last week I facilitated our Wednesday support group. The group was small, and all seemed very stressed and sad. During the meeting, the box of tissues went around the room at least twice.

Everyone felt defeated and hopeless.

That was how we started but not how we finished the session.

This powerful little group helped one another, and by the end of the meeting everyone had some great techniques to help themselves and their loved one.

I would like to share a few of these techniques with you and hope they offer a bit of relief.

First and foremost, take care of yourself and have a plan in place. These two go together, because once there is a plan in place for your loved one, you can stop worrying about it.

If you need help with that plan, call Memory Matters.

This issue was the No. 1 stress factor for caregivers. I helped a woman make her plan recently, and she said she felt the weight of the world lifted from her shoulders. Get a plan!

Also, remember there are many options for “respite care.” Use them and take a break. Do not feel guilty. You must stay healthy.

Now, what can you do at home to help both of you have a more peaceful home? Some of the suggestions from my caregivers were:

  • Modify the environment to reduce potential stressors that can create agitation and disorientation for a person with Alzheimer’s.

Noise, shadowy lighting, garish or highly contrasting colors – these seemingly small things can keep someone agitated.

Soft colors, soft light, even soft music can make a big difference. Make some changes.

If you remain calm you may find your loved one is much calmer. Try it!

  • Essential oils can help create a calm environment. One of my caregivers said this approach has made a significant improvement in her loved one’s behavior. She said he smiles when she lights the oil diffuser. Buy some.
  • To help prevent wandering, one caregiver said by simply reassuring her husband, he calms down.

She said she rubs lavender essential oil, just a small amount, on the palms of his hands and messages his hands.

He loves the aroma and the silky feeling of the oil. Then they both take a deep breath, listen to his favorite songs, and he calms down.

  • Try and keep your cool. We are only human, but do the best you can to stay calm because when you lose your cool, your loved one can sense it, and before you know it, all hell breaks loose.

There are so many techniques, so many little changes that can help you and your loved one live a happier, calmer life.

If you need more suggestions, visit one of our support groups or make an appointment with one of our dementia care specialists.

Call Memory Matters at 843-842-6688 or visit www.memory-matters.org.

Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. karen@memory-matters.org