The Center for Brain/Mind Medicine > Support & Education

Patience & the Dementia Caregiver

What Is Patience?

Patience:  the capacity to tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset

For dementia caregivers, there are plenty of reasons to feel upset or angry.  Some of the most common are:

    • Overwhelming demands of prolonged caregiving
    • Safety issues
    • Repetition
    • Slowness
    • Loss of ability to do simple things
    • Personality changes
    • Resistance and irritability
    • Inability to remember

What Can Help Us Have More Patience?

It’s no surprise that, over time and under the stress of daily caregiving, our patience is stretched thin.  Even the best caregivers are only human.  First of all, if a caregiver is hungry, tired, or not feeling well, patience will already be in short supply.  Paying attention to your basic physical well-being as a caregiver can boost patience.

Also, reducing the overall level of caregiving stress automatically enhances patience.  Taking time away from caregiving, even for a few hours, tends to recharge your reserve of patience.  As hard as it is to get—and sometimes even accept the need for—help, it reduces the stress of caregiving and enhances patience.

Of course, your patience will be tested when your person unexpectedly does something dangerous, like wandering away from home, driving when it is no longer safe to do so, or causing a kitchen fire.  While it may not be possible to keep your patience in an emergency, these incidents can serve as wake-up calls that safety measures need to be put in place.

Your person’s memory problems may also cause you to lose patience.  When someone repeats the same story over and over in an hour’s time or asks what day it is after you’ve just told them, it can be hard to keep your patience.  It helps to know that, over time, you’ll come to expect these behaviors as the norm.

Consider the Following:

  • Allow yourself a time-out.
  • Adjust your own expectations for your person and yourself.  Think of your person as having a broken brain, just as if they had a broken arm or leg.
  • Plan ahead in anticipation of your person’s slowness and/or resistance.
  • Know that guilt does not help increase patience.
  • Learn strategies to deal with specific behavioral issues.