If you are fortunate enough to see a loving parent into their elder years, then you have unique opportunities to share, laugh and experience a new side to this amazing person who likely knows you better than anyone else in the world. One of the most rewarding experiences in life is to share special moments with a parent in their old age when life is (hopefully) simpler and quality time can be spent together exchanging memories and cherishing each other’s company.
There are, however, certain circumstances that can potentially make these precious moments challenging. Caring for elderly parents can be hard enough, but if one of your parents is suffering from dementia, you might be struggling with ways to deal with this perplexing mental condition your mom or dad is enduring. Here are a few suggestions and tips to make your life and the life of your parent a little easier and enjoyable in these golden years together.
How to Communicate
Perhaps the greatest difficulty when caring for a parent with dementia is learning how to effectively communicate with him or her. This can be challenging because you might not always understand how dementia is affecting mom or dad. For example, your parent might be suffering from memory loss, or might not even recognize you. Or they may be so disoriented as to not know the time or place they are in. Understandably, this can cause extreme anxiety within your parent and you.
You can meet this challenge head-on by trying to remain calm, make eye contact, use a light physical touch, and speak gently and clearly to your parent. Avoid distractions, and soothe the mood by making the room still and quiet. Resist talking mom or dad down, or trying to make them understand where they are or who you are.
Asking questions or making statements like “Remember mom? This is your bedroom, and I am your daughter.” can be counterproductive in communicating with your parent. This may cause further frustration as they are fighting to understand, yet they are simply unable to recall such details. Above all else, be as patient as possible with your parent, try to remain serene, and be gentle with mom or dad.
Ways to Prepare
If you are taking care of a parent with dementia in your home or theirs, staying on top of their safety can be a full-time job. As much as you may want to protect mom or dad from every harm, it is almost impossible to guarantee their safety 100%. However, you can prepare for common mishaps by equipping the home with assisted living technology which can help keep your mom or dad safe by alerting medical services should they encounter an emergency. These tech safety devices come in many forms from panic buttons linked to 911 services, to motion detectors in the home and they’ve proven invaluable in saving elderly lives.
Other safety practices include elderly-proofing the home to avoid injury or harm to your parent. Install hand grips wherever possible, especially in slippery areas like the shower or near the toilet. Also, affix non-slip mats in the bathtub and on other areas of floors that may seem treacherous to walk on. Remove area rugs and other potential tripping factors. Survey rooms in the home and take precautions to remove safety hazards wherever possible.
Don’t Overlook Self-Care
Many children become overwhelmed with the burden of caring for parents with dementia. It is a significant responsibility and commonly leaves caretakers feeling depleted or emotionally exhausted much of the time. Putting the needs of a parents’ wellbeing is admirable, but not at the expense of disrupting your own self-care. If you find it hard to give yourself a break, remember that if you are fatigued from caring for your parent, you may not be in the best mindset to manage their needs effectively.
Avoid burnout by recruiting help from others. Ask family members or trusted friends to relieve you so you can take personal time for yourself. If this is not an option, research eldercare day centers that will tend to your mom or dad while you take a much-needed break.
Very often, these day facilities are a welcome break for mom or dad too because they sometimes offer social interaction with others their age. They may also encourage engagement in activities, play games, and some centers even provide a healthy meal during their temporary stay. This gives you essential quality time for yourself so you can regroup and return to your parent’s care refreshed.
Closing Thoughts About Caring for a Parent with Dementia
Caring for a parent with dementia is one of the hardest things a child might have to go through. But it can also be the most rewarding experience in a parent-child relationship. While nothing about the situation is ideal, you can make preparations and take steps that make the circumstances easier to manage. In time, you may discover a renewed bond between you and your parent while enjoying precious moments together.