It can be incredibly difficult to watch your parents age and fall victim to conditions or diseases that rob them of their memories and cognitive powers. It is estimated that one in seven seniors over the age of 70 in the U.S. now suffer from some degree of dementia. However, the actual numbers could be much higher as many cases go undiagnosed.
As an adult child of a parent with dementia, learning how to provide memory care and protect your family member can be an intimidating process. In many cases, several family members may be required to help care for a senior that has dementia, or they may need institutionalized care. But, in the beginning, most dementia patients can be cared for at home.
Suppose you are concerned that your parent may be suffering from dementia or have been displaying worrying signs of memory loss, depression, and agitated behavior. In that case, it may be time to talk to their doctor. To effectively manage the care of a senior parent with dementia, you will need patience, education, and a dedication to their dignity and comfort. Let’s take a closer look at a few tips to help you care for your parent that has dementia.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is not an illness or a disease in itself but instead a group of symptoms that are closely associated with several cognitive diseases. These symptoms can affect memory, decision-making, and socialization. However, these are not the only indicators of dementia. If you notice that you or a loved one is displaying some or all of these symptoms, it may be time to talk to your doctor.
- Memory loss includes difficulty with names, recalling facts, and recognizing familiar surroundings
- Difficulty communicating and finding the right words to get a message out
- Difficulty problem solving
- Difficulty completing complex tasks even when they are familiar
- Confusion or disorientation
- Personality changes including depression, angry outbursts, or inappropriate sexual behavior
- Anxiety and paranoia
In many cases, these types of symptoms are tough to diagnose personally. Usually, the changes in behavior are noticed by a loved one that can bring it to the patient’s attention. Many seniors downplay their symptoms as generalized memory problems that are associated with normal aging. However, dementia is more serious and should be brought to your doctor’s attention.
Caring for a Parent With Dementia
Over 90% of seniors claim that they would prefer to age in their homes. With the over 65 generation living longer than ever before, millions of people will potentially remain in their homes as they grow older. While this may be a comforting and familiar way to live during the Golden Years, it can be a challenge for those that are dealing with a diagnosis of dementia.
If you have a senior parent or another family member trying to live independently while navigating dementia, you may need to step in and provide extra care. If your senior parent is determined to stay at home and poses no serious risk to their health and welfare, staying in their home can be the most comfortable place for them to be.
As a caregiver, helping a patient with dementia can be challenging. While it can be emotionally taxing to watch a parent age and begin to fade mentally, there will be many difficult moments while caring for a parent with dementia. We will be taking a closer look at a few tips for helping to care for a parent with dementia.
Talking with a dementia patient can be frustrating for them and their caregivers. To be effective as a caregiver, you must know how to communicate effectively. The key to being understood is to take your time and practice patience. Speak clearly, in a firm voice when talking with your parent, and phrase your questions so that they can be answered with a simple “yes”, or “no”. Open-ended questions can lead to further confusion. When speaking, use body language to help get your message across, as dementia patients can often pick up on physical cues easier than spoken language.
Stick to a Routine
When caring for your parent with dementia, it is best to establish and stick to a routine. Any variance from the normal can be frightening and confusing for the patient. A simple schedule can be soothing for your parent. Avoid new situations and environments that can be upsetting and cause unnecessary anxiety.
Your parent with dementia is likely going to the most comfortable place with which they are familiar and contains items that they recognize. Find the most comfortable place in the home, and ensure they have what they need. Keep the area organized, and avoid unnecessary movement of furnishings and belongings. If your parent is feeling overwhelmed, there are plenty of retirement villages or assisted living facilities that provide a secure, supervised environment. They may even include dementia-specific programming to help your parent stay engaged and safe. These organizations provide tailored support for people with dementia, which may include medical attention, activities designed for memory stimulation, and socialization opportunities.
Mental and physical exercise is vital in dementia care. Physical activity can help to alleviate symptoms of restlessness, anxiety, and lack of sleep. At the same time, mental activities can help to strengthen neural pathways and fight off the symptoms of dementia. You can find physical and mental exercises for dementia patients online.
It’s important to maintain a healthy diet for patients with dementia. Avoid too much sugar or caffeine as they can interfere with proper sleep patterns. Many dementia patients struggle with insomnia, so it’s important to avoid foods and drinks that will exacerbate that problem. Also, avoiding alcohol which can increase a depressive mood or cause additional confusion, is important.
One of the most common concerns for dementia caregivers is the safety of their patients. If you are not a full-time caregiver, creating a safe environment is crucial so your parent will remain safe when you are not with them. Wandering is also a big concern, as many dementia patients can start to wander away from their homes and become easily confused and frightened.
One option is outfitting the home with remote alarms that will notify you if a parent has left the premises. Your senior parent can wear many personal alarm systems that will help them get help when needed and come equipped with GPS tracking software so they can be easily located.
Dementia Care Alternatives
In the early stages of dementia, most adults can remain in their homes with minimal care. In many cases, an adult child or another family member takes on the responsibility of caring for the dementia patient. While this is the preferred care for most families, dementia symptoms can quickly change, resulting in differing levels of care.
As dementia worsens in your parent, their care requirements may go beyond what you can provide at home. In some cases, the care of a parent with dementia can be overwhelming, and many caregivers need part-time support from a professional service. We will take a look at some of the dementia care alternatives that are available for families.
Maintaining a safe environment is crucial if you care for your parent with dementia at home. Things like medication management, keeping dangerous items like knives or guns securely stored, and doors locked should be a priority.
For those that don’t have the time that is required to dedicate to the care of their parent with dementia, bringing in part-time in-home care professionals can be an excellent solution. These trained experts can help you with many tasks, including:
- Medication management
- Meal preparation
- Transportation assistance
- Cleaning and laundry services
- Assisting with daily living tasks, including bathing, grooming, and dressing
The responsibilities that come with caring for a parent with dementia can be overwhelming emotionally and physically. It’s not uncommon for an adult child to need a break from their parent’s care. Respite care allows the primary caregivers to take a much-needed break to address their own mental and emotional needs.
Many senior facilities offer respite care for families in need. They will help you create a custom care plan that ranges from a few days to a month. Your senior parent will benefit from full-time care in a welcoming and beneficial environment. Try out different senior care facilities that you may be considering for your parent’s future needs.
Adult Day Care
Many adult children would like to be able to care for their parents with dementia full-time, but the demands of careers and family make it impossible. In some cases, your parent can benefit from attending a Memory Care Adult Day Care facility. Adult daycare is precisely what it sounds like; a secure place where adults can go for the day and will be monitored and cared for by qualified staff.
You can drop your parent off in the morning and pick them up later in the day. During their stay at the facility, they will have the opportunity to participate in Memory Care activities, socialize with their peers, and learn new skills. As a caregiver, you will have the peace of mind that your parent is being well cared for in a secure environment while you are unavailable.
Caring for a senior parent with dementia may be one of the most challenging things you will ever do. Learning how to cope with the changes in your parent and how to manage the emotional drain can be exhausting. The increased number of dementia patients has created a vital support system for patients and families. If you are thinking about caring for your parent on your own, consider these tips and care options for your family.