Carrie Aalberts, also known as Dementia Darling, is a gerontologist and caregiving expert. Carrie's mission is to help those who are on the caregiving journey both practically and emotionally. She provides extremely valuable advice that helps navigate this journey, while also reassuring caregivers that they are not alone.
You can find Carrie at her (www.DementiaDarling.com) and on all social channels. And keep an eye out for her upcoming book later this summer!!
Can you share a bit of your background and how it led you to be known as Dementia Darling?
It all goes back to my grandmother who had dementia when I was a teenager. My father was her primary family caregiver and I never knew it would lead me down a career path. I have always connected with seniors and I always wondered what happened to my grandmother, so this lead to my curiosity around this field of work. I ended up going to the University of Nevada, Reno and getting my Bachelor and Master of Science focused in gerontology. My love for gerontology got deeper as I began working in the field.
I am now a Certified Dementia Practitioner and a Certified Montessori Dementia Care Professional. I’ve worked the last 10 years in adult day care centers, assisted living and memory care facilities. I’ve done everything from caregiving, activities planning, bus driving, to directing the building. One of the consistent things I noticed in my career was that caregivers did not have the support they deserved. It became my goal to create a space where caregivers could find resources, support, education and build community.
Dementia Darling started in the fall of 2019 and it has grown so much since. I am immensely proud of our community; they inspire me daily. And now I’m coming out with my first book in August 2022.
What is the main goal and purpose of the platform you’ve built in this space?
My main goal is to make sure ALL caregivers know they are not alone. It is a common theme I hear, that these amazing caregivers feel so alone in their day-to-day struggles. This is far from the truth. With more than 11 million Americans caring for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementias (Alzheimer’s Association, 2022) they should never feel alone. They deserve and NEED more support and resources.
That is why I love Joe and Bella. You give a lot of advice and tips for those who care for a loved one with dementia.
What advice for caregivers can you share around some common misconceptions people have when thinking about those who live with dementia and Alzheimer's?
People often assume that when someone is living with dementia they can no longer contribute or be a person in society, that they are automatically written off. This is far from being true. It is society's biases that are hindering the dementia population from living fulfilling lives.
What are some of the biggest challenges that caregivers face? What are some of the biggest pieces of advice you give to new caregivers?
There are so many day-to-day challenges that caregivers face, however, I am going to focus on a large challenge that caregivers face: grief. I think that caregivers are often thrown into a very stressful and sometimes traumatic situation with little to no education or support. The grief that comes with caring for another, especially one with a progressive disease, is heart wrenching.
Society does not have a healthy view of grief and how it is different for everyone. This can make it extra challenging to navigate while caregiving, and can often make us feel more alone.
On that note, I would say that the biggest advice I would give is to seek community. Find others who will understand your journey. And if they don’t understand, then try to find people who will let you speak your truth. Caregivers need support around them.
Another piece of advice: take care of yourself. If you are not well, who will care for your loved one? You are worthy of self care.
Do you have different advice for people who have been caregivers for a long time?
First, I would like to say bravo caregiver! You are amazing and your loved ones are lucky to have you. I would encourage you to focus on your health. I am sure you often (aka always) get sidelined to help the one you are caring for. Give yourself the same care. If you are able, arrange respite for yourself and do not feel guilty. You need time to regenerate and fill your cup.
At Joe & Bella, we aim to make dressing easier for those living with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other physical changes. What are some common challenges that people with dementia or Alzheimer’s face when getting dressed and undressed?
Everyone living with dementia or Alzheimer’s is unique in their journey, but let’s talk about a few common challenges I have seen. The inability to bend and balance are often very hindered. This can lead to getting dressed being very much a safety issue. Many people I’ve seen have an issue putting on regular T-shirts because they can’t get their arms up above their head or they can’t get their arms to bend in the right position to get in their shirt. That’s just one example of many.
Balancing while dressing can also be a safety issue. I’ve also witnessed many times in the restroom when people are trying to undress quickly and they can’t remember how to work the buttons or the zippers. This can be an issue and can lead to frustration.
How can family caregivers help their loved ones make dressing easier?
Family caregivers can provide independence by giving their loved ones a choice between two options at a time when dressing. Another way to give independence is giving them a chance to do certain dressing tasks if they are still able. Providing opportunities for independence is a way to show respect and maintain dignity which in turn will make dressing more enjoyable. Another tip, is to use adaptable clothing for dementia from Joe & Bella to make the experience quicker, frustration free and stylish!