Dealing with dementia in a parent can be a difficult and emotionally taxing experience. It can be hard to watch a loved one’s memory and cognitive abilities decline, and it can be even harder to know how to help them. However, with the right approach and resources, it is possible to provide the best possible care for a parent with dementia.
You’re not on this journey alone, and there are people who can help. Caring for a parent with dementia takes patience, dedication, and an understanding of what they’re going through.
What is Dementia?
The first step in dealing with dementia in a parent is understanding the condition. Dementia is a progressive decline in cognitive function that affects memory, language, and the ability to think and reason. There are several different types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form, as well as vascular dementia and Lewy body dementia.
Ask your doctor and read up about the specific type of dementia your parent has. Dementia progresses differently for different people, and your parent is likely going through it in their own way. Some of the common signs of dementia can include:
- Problems with memory, attention, and communication
- Lapses in reasoning, judgment, and problem-solving
- Vision problems beyond those typical for their age
- Forgetting names consistently
- Trouble recalling memories
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Referring to everyday objects using odd words
The Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. With up to 80% of all dementia diagnoses being Alzheimer’s, it’s worth focusing on it a bit more.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive condition and goes through a series of stages. The stages of Alzheimer’s can vary depending on the type and severity of the condition. Still, generally, they can be broken down into three main categories: early, middle, and late stage.
These stages don’t have a defined beginning and end and can overlap. But identifying which stage your parent is in can help you to understand their abilities and limitations better and provide appropriate care and support.
Parents with late-stage Alzheimer’s can require around-the-clock care that could be beyond the capacity of a single caregiver.
Some people may feel using support services, such as a personal care community or respite care, is a form of weakness or giving up—especially when they’re caring for a parent. This is not true. Knowing when to ask for help shows you understand that taking care of yourself makes you a better caregiver for your parent.
Creating a Care Plan
Once you understand dementia and the stage your parent is in, it’s essential to make a care plan. A care plan should include the following:
- Identifying and addressing safety concerns
- Scheduling regular check-ins with a healthcare professional
- Identifying and arranging for appropriate care services
- Setting up a support system for the family and caregivers
- Creating routines for daily activities
It’s also important to be realistic about how much care you can provide. Caregiving can be emotionally and physically demanding, and it’s crucial to take care of yourself as well as your parent. It’s okay to ask for help and to consider options like hiring a professional caregiver or moving your parent to a memory care community.
Communication is vital when dealing with dementia in a parent. As the disease progresses, your parent may have difficulty communicating or become easily confused. Be patient, speak clearly and simply, and use nonverbal cues like gestures and facial expressions to help them understand.
You don’t always have to know exactly what to say. Your presence and companionship is what’s most important.
Plan For The Future
Unfortunately, dementia will likely progress until your parent cannot care for themselves anymore. Before this happens, you’ll want to talk to them so you can understand their wishes. These conversations are difficult, but they’re serious and the most crucial step in caregiving.
Sometimes, this could be planning for a care community ahead of time. It may include making legal and financial plans, such as power of attorney and advanced directives. But it also includes end-of-life planning, so you can ensure your parent has a say in these emotional decisions.
Remember, you’re not alone in this journey, and resources are available to help you. If you need to, reach out to support groups, dementia organizations, or even speak to a therapist. Taking care of yourself as well as your loved one is essential to providing the best possible care for your parent with dementia.
Fox Trail Memory Care in Mahwah understands the strain these times can have on you. If you need help caring for your parent with dementia, give us a call and let our expert team be on your side.