It can be difficult to know how to deal with dementia in parents, especially if you’re the primary caregiver.
As our parents age, their risk of developing dementia increases.
If you are a caregiver for a parent with dementia, it's essential to know how to deal with the condition.
It's not easy, but with patience and understanding, you can make life easier for both of you.
Here are some tips on how to manage dementia in parents.
Most would think dementia is just a part of normal aging. But it’s more than that.
WHO defines dementia as a syndrome that leads to deterioration in cognitive function.
It’s usually chronic or progressive in nature to an extent that it affects a person's daily life and activities.
It develops when part of the brain responsible for memory, decision-making, learning or language becomes affected.
And it’s caused by several factors damaging the brain directly or indirectly, such as Alzheimer's disease or stroke.
Most often, people would equate Alzheimer’s to dementia. But Alzheimer's is just one common type of dementia.
Read here on how to differentiate Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Further, the early signs of dementia can be very subtle and they usually go undetected for months or even years.
As caregivers, what early symptoms and common behaviors of dementia should we take note of?
A common finding in dementia is memory loss. They can’t recall key dates or remember important things they need to do.
Elderly loved ones may also have difficulty keeping new information. They may struggle to recall a person’s name after meeting them for the first time.
Another early sign is difficulty in speaking or writing. People with dementia may ask the same question multiple times or repeat the same story during conversations.
Some have difficulty remembering the exact words or how to use them.
And some would even stop in the middle of a conversation and wouldn’t know how to proceed.
People suffering from dementia also can show sudden changes in their moods and personality.
They can become withdrawn, confused, or even lose interest in previously enjoyed activities.
Seniors may also become easily confused with things. They may confuse the days of the week or even the season.
Or they could forget where they’re going or have difficulty finding their way to a familiar place.
And while this condition is progressive, sometimes sudden worsening of dementia symptoms may appear.
It may be because of underlying health conditions like urinary tract infections or vitamin D deficiency.
These cause our loved ones to suffer and affect their lives more.
Read more here about early subtle signs and how is dementia diagnosed in the elderly.
The time immediately after a loved one is diagnosed with dementia can be frightening and stressful.
Both family members and the patient may struggle in coming to terms with the diagnosis.
And the patient might not want to let others know about it because of fear.
So allow your loved ones to express how they're feeling and motivate them to keep doing things that give their lives value and purpose.
Allow time for you and your loved one to absorb the news, adjust to the new situation, and mourn your losses.
It’s difficult sharing a dementia diagnosis with anyone. But it’s more challenging with the elder’s children.
They may respond in several ways. And for some, it can be a dreadful experience especially if they have a difficult relationship with their parents.
They may feel uncomfortable spending time with them. Some become impatient with repeated questions or stories, which they feel guilty about.
Children also have difficulties understanding the elderly with early-onset dementia.
Some also feel a sense of rejection, especially if their loved ones don’t remember who they are.
So it’s best to explain what dementia is and show them it’s OK to talk and that there’s nothing wrong with being with them.
Being honest and giving family and friends information about dementia can go a long way to help them understand what's going on.
As caregivers, it’s best to find people who you can confide in. Inform friends and close relatives, so they can give you the much-needed support.
Also, look for ways you can combat such stress. You can turn to caregiver support groups or look for local community organizations.
There are also people who cope by reading books about the topic. Here are our recommendations for the best books about caregiving.
As dementia progresses, you’ll notice how an elderly loved one communicates.
They have difficulty finding the right words or substituting one word for another. They may lose their train of thought and even show sudden inappropriate outbursts.
But although they have these difficulties—it’s important they engage in social interaction.
And making them feel safe and heard will make communication easier. So try to manage your own feelings.
Here are tips on how to talk to someone with dementia.
Always be patient when talking with them. If they have a hard time remembering a word, give them some time.
Angry or impatient behavior will only make them forget. Tell the person that you will come back to the word later.
Remember to set a positive mood by speaking to them in a nice and respectful way.
Seniors suffering from dementia tend to respond to our tone of voice, facial expressions, and to words we use. So stay calm, keep eye contact, and have a relaxed posture.
Give one single step command or question at a time and use short sentences. Also remember to give your loved one time to process what you're saying.
Avoid asking open-ended questions or providing too many choices. Provide prompts, clarify your question, and guide their response.
If they can’t comprehend the first time, find a simpler way to say the same idea.
Remember to break down activities into a series of steps.
You can help your loved one by encouraging him to do what he can, gently reminding him of steps he forgets.
Then you can assist him with ones he can no longer do on his own.
If they show stubborn behaviors or become agitated, try changing the subject or the environment.
They also often feel anxious and unsure of themselves. Provide them with reassurance and avoid convincing them they’re wrong.
Instead, stay focused on what behavior they’re showing. And respond with expressions of support and comfort.
It’s a tough job caring for someone with dementia.
Often it leads to family conflicts among siblings. And it becomes the most common source of strain and stress when caring for someone diagnosed with dementia.
There’s no perfect way of telling others about the condition. But when the time is right, you should be honest with your family, relatives, or close friends.
Use it as a chance to educate them about the disease.
It's helpful to start reading about what to expect as soon as you learn about the diagnosis.
It helps you psychologically prepare for the future and provides you with time to plan ahead.
Here are helpful strategies for families caring for a loved one with dementia.
Outline what your loved one wishes to do and plan ahead. Have a serious talk with them and work together so you can put them into writing.
Guide them in completing legal directives after official diagnosis if they’re still able to decide for themselves.
Without such planning, families often disagree on the level of care for their seniors.
It’s also best to help families and friends to make them understand how they can best interact with someone who has dementia.
Plan fun activities that elderly loved ones can enjoy like family reunions or visits with old friends.
Getting them involved creates great opportunities for them to spend time together with family.
Remember to focus on the condition.
It can be upsetting to watch your loved one decline, but keep in mind that dementia is a disease.
Our loved ones are going through a tough transition because of the disease.
And if they forget who you are or become angry, it's easy to give up or become frustrated.
But remember that your loved one is going through the same thing and can be frustrated as well.
As caregivers, it’s not uncommon to feel a rollercoaster of emotions.
You may feel anxious, happy, or frustrated all while doing your responsibilities.
Fortunately, there are excellent resources available for caregivers caring for patients with dementia.
It can be difficult to find ways on how to deal with dementia behaviors in parents, especially if you’re the main care provider.
It’s emotional, conflicting, and can be a difficult time for everyone in the family.
The key is to respond with patience and understanding. If it’s difficult for you, then it must be more so for the elder who’s going through the challenges of dementia.
And if caregiving becomes too tough, there are always resources you can reach out to.
How did you cope with dementia as a caregiver? Share your experience with us below.
That's all for today.
Take care, keep mom safe and have a great day!