How to cope with parents with dementia
If you have a great relationship with your parents, watching them decline as they get older can be extremely difficult. Our parents took care of us when we were young, and watching them slip away, or even forget who we are, can be an extremely hard part of the aging process.
Dementia effects the brain, and causes your parent to forget important memories, erratic emotions, and even complete character changes. It can be a big shock to find a loving parent suddenly aggressive and angry, or demanding to know who you are or why you haven't been to see them—when you saw them yesterday.
If you're struggling to deal with the changes brought about by dementia in your parent, here are a few tips that can help.
Be patient with your parents
The changes brought by dementia can be extremely difficult. Hearing your parents change can be shocking, but remember what they are doing is not really their fault. They are not responsible for their actions, even angry outbursts or even violence, because it is the disease striking out not them.
Ask one question at a time
If you need to ask your parent something, ask one question at a time. It's also best to stick with 'yes' or 'no' questions if possible, to make answering as easy as possible for them. Other types of good questions are ones that have a visual reference to help them, and very few options. Instead of asking them, “What would you like to eat for breakfast?” Ask them, “Would you like eggs, or toast?”
Get help if you need it
Taking care of a parent with dementia can be extremely hard on you as well as them. Make sure that you have a chance to step away sometimes to get air, rest, and recharge. Even if it's only a couple times a week, you'll feel better for it, and your parents will receive better care when you are rested.
Make sure you have a plan for wandering
If you are taking care of your parent at home, remember that dementia patients tend to wander. They can easily get lost, going for a walk and then forgetting how to get home. Have them wear a bracelet with their address on it if possible, and proof the house with locks out of reach and other ways that make it difficult for them to leave without you being aware.
Parenting your parent can be a shocking shift, but dementia patients can sometimes be a little like children. Remember that they did the same for you when you were young. Don't give in to the temptation to nag them or harass them because their buttons aren't done properly or they're spilling food on themselves.
It's never easy caring for an aging parent whose mind is slipping away. Doing so is one way to give back to a person who gave you so much in life. Your parents may never remember how you handled their dementia, but you will, and that can make a big difference to you after they have passed on.
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