When your parent receives a dementia diagnosis, it can feel like the very ground beneath you has become unstable. You might have seen movies or television shows where characters have dementia; you might have had friends go through something similar with their parents.
You probably know that this could be a challenging time, but you might be unaware of what you can do to help make this easier for everyone, especially your parent. The following will explore a few vital things you can do to help better care for someone you love who is suffering from dementia.
Take care of yourself
While this might seem a strange point to begin with, it’s absolutely vital. Yes, your parent is struggling with dementia; yes, you’re looking for ways to help and support them. Refilling your own energetic well is a vital component of this.
Think about how patient you are at the start of a lazy day when you have nothing to do compared to how you feel when you’ve been beaten into the ground by a brutal workday, have eighteen things you need to accomplish, and someone says one thing you don’t like.
You can’t take good care of people if you’re not in a good state yourself. You need rest. You need stress-free moments. You need nutritious food, especially if you’re feeling panicked about the whole situation. You need hydration and exercise.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like you have time for this. If you aren’t meeting your own basic needs, you’re not going to be able to be patient and give as much energy. You’re going to get exhausted, and none of us are at our best when we’re exhausted.
As well, if you have siblings who are shouldering this new stage of life with you, they also need to be taking care of themselves. Some illnesses can last a really long time. Dementia isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. You need the energy to run a marathon.
Learn as much about dementia as you can
This isn’t just a random person you’re dealing with; it’s one of your parents. Parents and children have highly complex relationships that make them better at hurting one another’s feelings than pretty much anyone else, even spouses and siblings. Because dementia influences the brain, it can impact pretty much every area of someone’s life. If you’re not super familiar with dementia, it’s pretty easy to get hurt by symptoms and behaviors that don’t make sense to you.
If you have an understanding of what behaviors are the result of dementia, it’s a lot easier to brush off moments that are difficult. This isn’t your parent trying to be difficult; it isn’t them trying to insult you or hurt your feelings. This is simply part of the condition they’re in.
For instance, it’s incredibly common for people with dementia to have stronger symptoms at the tail end of the day, around the time the sun sets. These symptoms might include aggression, ignoring instructions, pacing, or wandering.
If you’ve read up on dementia, you’ll know that this is something than can happen and perhaps even be a little prepared for it. If you had no idea that aggression was a symptom, you might find yourself deeply bothered by your parent’s behavior.
The more you learn, the more level-headed and understanding you can be toward your parent. This can make the daily aspects of dementia a lot easier to deal with for everyone involved.
Dealing with dementia is complicated. Looking for a medical professional or healthcare advisor that can help guide you through this new development can be invaluable. There are likely a ton of resources available in your area, such as group therapy sessions for people whose loved ones are experiencing dementia, seminars that present people with actionable tips that can help make the process easier for everyone, and even care facilities.
With the rates of dementia increasing, a wide variety of care facilities and options are available. There is no longer a need for getting care living in a hospital-style institution with cold medical lighting. Staff at Cedar Creek’s Dementia care homes, for instance, care for people with memory loss in a home-styled environment.
There are also lots of in-between options for people these days. You can likely find care workers who will come into your parent’s home for a few hours while you’re at work. There are also day programs available in some places.
There is going to be a support style that works for you and your parent. It’s okay if it takes some time to find what’s right for everyone. It’s okay to try things out and decide they’re not ideal. Remember, just because other people do something one way doesn’t mean you need to do it that way too.
When someone is losing memory, communication can begin to wane. You probably don’t realize how much of your standard interactions with your parent are based on shared memories. Focus on what you can do to cultivate strong communication with your parent regardless of how much they’re currently remembering.
It might help to speak calmly and clearly, using words that are easy to understand. You might also want to minimize distractions like background noise to help amplify communication.
Focus on needs
No one gets to pick what their needs are. People need what they need when they need it. By focusing on needs, you can help ensure that your parent is physically comfortable. This can dramatically improve all other aspects of what they’re going through. For example, did you know that the most common factor in whether or not a couple is going to get into an argument is whether or not one of them is hungry?
Focus on helping your parent feel full and clean with quenched thirst and comfortable clothing and surroundings. Remember, humans are pack animals, and this means we also need social interaction and physical affection like hugs or handholding.
The above information should help you better interact with and serve your parent with dementia. It’s worth noting that dementia is a progressive condition, and this means that things are likely going to change many times over. It’s fine if something that was working stops working. Adjustment is part of this process.