Dementia is a debilitating disease. As a caregiver, you can use all the help you can get. Here’s a caregiver’s guide for how to care for a parent with dementia.
Do you feel like you’re in over your head caring for a parent who has dementia?
If the answer is yes, don’t feel bad. Caring for someone with dementia is incredibly tough, and when it’s someone you love deeply, it can sometimes be even harder.
It’s hard enough watching someone you care about and know so well undergo changes to their personality and memory. And then, on top of that, needing to keep track of that person’s health on a 24/7 basis.
But, the good news is that you’re not the first person to care for their parent with dementia. Which means, there are a lot of proven techniques and strategies out there you can make use of to make the caregiving process easier.
So, what are these strategies?
Read this guide to learn how to take care of a parent with dementia.
Don’t Waste Your Energy Arguing
Dementia is one of the most heartbreaking diseases out there, as many times someone with dementia looks completely fine physically, but on the inside, their brain is malfunctioning.
When someone’s brain is malfunctioning, it causes them to forget things and to misremember facts. Therefore, your parent will frequently say things that don’t make sense or that you know are simply untrue.
Sometimes, these false statements can be very frustrating and sometimes even hurtful to hear.
But, no matter how difficult it is to hear the false things your parent is saying, you need to bite your tongue. Arguing with them is not going to do any good. It will just leave you both feeling frustrated and sad. And, you really can’t win an argument with someone who can no longer think logically.
Find the Root of Aggressive Behaviors
Another very difficult aspect of dementia is the aggression it can often bring out in its victims.
Even if your parent was previously the calmest, most level-headed person in the world, dementia can cause them to act out aggressively. Oftentimes, the aggression is extremely sudden, and it can really catch you off-guard.
Sometimes, your parent may just start yelling out of nowhere, but other times they may also hit, kick, or scream.
When your parent starts acting out aggressively, it’s important to try and figure out the root cause of their behavior. This will help you figure out how to deal with your parent during future outbursts.
Common triggers for aggressive behaviors include physical discomfort, difficulty with communication, or a change in environmental factors.
After your parent has an aggressive episode and they’ve calmed down, ask them what it was that made them so upset, and really try to get to the root of the problem. For example, you may find that your parent gets upset when people fuss over them, as they hate to be fussed over.
This means that the next time they start acting out aggressively, the best thing to do is walk away and give them the space they need.
Make Use of Therapeutic Fibs and Validation Therapy
Oftentimes, it can feel like your parent with dementia is living in a reality that is completely different than your own.
While it may seem like the best thing to do is to “pull” them out of their fantasy and give them a reality check, experts actually say that the best thing to do is to join the dementia patient in their reality.
Trying to get them to come back to your reality nearly always just results in confusion, anger, frustration.
In dementia talk, joining a parent’s reality is known as validation therapy or therapeutic fibs.
For example, your parent with dementia may insist they need to get back to the office, even though they’ve been retired for quite some time. Or, they may try to say they are a child, waiting for their parent to come to pick them up.
Or, it’s also common for dementia patients to say that they are waiting for a friend or relative who has long since passed away.
The best thing to do in these situations, as much as it may hurt, is to go along with their reality. For example, if they say they’re waiting for a friend, you can ask them when that friend is supposed to show up. Or, you can also respond by simply saying “ok”.
Once you’ve indulged them in their own reality for a little while, try redirecting them to another activity.
Small Breaks Can Make a Huge Difference
If you’re helping your parent with an activity and it feels like it’s taking forever because they’ve been getting combative and agitated, it can sometimes help tremendously to take a small break.
Make sure your parent is safe, and then head into another room and allow yourself to chill out for 20 minutes or so. Try doing an activity that allows you to escape from your current situation, such as reading a book or watching a bit of TV.
When you come back to your parent, 9 times out of 10, they will be more cooperative.
It’s Never Too Late to Improve Brain Function
Many people think that when their parent is diagnosed with dementia, it all starts to go downhill and there’s nothing they can do to help their parent improve their brain health.
But, this is not true. It’s really never too late to help someone improve their brain health.
Therefore, it’s very important that you have your parent engaging in brain-boosting activities as often as you can. Brain-boosting activities include:
- Working on puzzles
- Crafting projects
- Physical exercise
- Painting or drawing
- Watching family videos
- Reading the newspaper
- Looking at books
- Baking or cooking
- Organizing household items
- Playing music or singing songs
These activities won’t completely reverse your parent’s dementia, but they can help slow down the deterioration of their brain. There are also new treatment options available that could help patients with dementia. You can get some information on these treatment options here.
Helping a Parent With Dementia: Are You Ready?
As you can see, there are a lot of different strategies that will make it easier for you to care for your parent with dementia.
If you have questions about any of these strategies, please let us know in a comment below.
And, be sure to check out this blog post on how to improve memory with better brain circulation.