One day, your mother forgot where she put her purse and went shopping without it. At the checkout, she realized she had no money to pay, so she embarrassingly left all the items in her cart and made a dash home. You thought it was just one of the few moments when she’d forgotten something.
Your mother just turned sixty this year. In retrospect, you realize that she did keep forgetting things. She forgot where the car keys were, where she put her eyeglasses and even wore different pairs of shoes. Do these scenes resonate with you and your parents’ condition as they age?
You might dismiss them as just some silly moments brought about by aging, but later on, you find out that this was a more severe case. As a loving child and family member, you need to know whatever you can about dementia.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is the collective name for mental disorders that involve the deterioration of the psychic ability to the point that it affects the daily life. When your parent loses focus and the ability to pay attention; when she’s unable to communicate clearly and when you notice impairment in judgment, she probably has dementia.
According to the Alzheimer’s Organization, ten percent (or 1 out of 10) of the people who are 65 years old and beyond has Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia. Meanwhile, two-thirds of these people are women. Unfortunately, the organization also cites that Alzheimer’s dementia is the only condition in the top 10 US diseases that can’t be prevented or cured.
Caring for a Parent with Dementia
Caring for a parent or senior is a challenge for the caregiver. One moment the patient is sad and confused, the next minute she is harsh and aggressive. These sudden shifts in behavior require a more in-depth level understanding of the disease, compassion to the afflicted senior as well as a good dose of patience. You must wonder, where all is this outburst coming from and what triggers this rash speech and behavior?
When caring for a parent with dementia, you become a student all over again. You might have known your mother all your life, but when there’s dementia in the picture, she becomes a new person. Unfortunately, if you don’t know her well enough now that she has this condition, you’ll often be left to wonder.
Watch out for the Patterns
The first thing to remember when elder parent experiences sudden outburst is to take notice what the triggers are. Is there a specific gesture that seems to agitate her? Is there a particular activity or routine that she seems to hate? Or is there something in her immediate surroundings that make her upset and frustrated? As a caregiver, you need to carefully observe the patterns so you can deal with those outbursts the next time around. You’ll see them coming, and you’ll be more equipped to handle these situations.
Don’t Argue with the Patient
You cannot control what the patient thinks and believes.Her brain functions are impaired, and she can’t make the wise and rational judgment like she used to. Don’t argue with the patient. Instead, accommodate her needs. If she refuses to eat what’s on the plate, don’t force it. Serve another kind of food that she’ll eat. If she refuses to do something you want to do, don’t push it. As long as the task or activity does not pose harm to the patient, it’s better to let her be to keep her feeling better and safe.
Keep Explanations Short and Easy to Understand
People with dementia also typically suffer from the confusion of place and time. For instance, if you’re taking a parent with dementia to the park for a stroll, she might feel weirded out about the area. She might insist on going home where she feels more comfortable and safe.
In these circumstances, it’s better to make your explanations short and easy to understand. Instead of explaining why she needs to walk and exercise, you can just say “so you can see the beautiful flowers.” Also, your answers should be along the lines of what she know and understand. She can probably guess what a flower means than exercise.
Know that You Need Help
Another startling data from the Alzheimer’s Organization tells us that 35% of caregivers to patients with dementia suffer from health problems. As the caregiver to a parent with dementia, you have a lot to deal with, and sometimes, these responsibilities can take a toll on you.
You must understand that despite being the caregiver, you need support too. You could start with a local support group of caregivers who deal with patients with dementia. In these venues, you can vent to people whom you know will understand. And it’s also likely that these people have gone through the same thing you’re going through right now, even worse. You might be able to extend empathy to your parent, but you need it just as much.
Next, you could look into taking breaks while allowing a professional elderly care in Houston take over. You can arrange for a temporary caregiver to assist your parent while you take the time to recharge yourself. Understandably, you wouldn’t want to leave your parent with just about anyone. A professional caregiver can fill in, giving the assurance that your parent is safe at the hands of someone who can expertly deal with these situations.
Dementia is a fierce battle to face, both for your afflicted parent and you as the caregiver. It’s difficult to imagine a loved one succumbing to a condition that you or the science can’t stop or slow down. But don’t give up. Take it one day at a time. Give as much as you can to the ailing parent, but be kind to yourself too. Dementia is a terrible condition, but when you know how to handle it, both of you will see better and brighter days ahead.
Leigh Robinson was her grandmother’s caregiver for three years. Five months after her Nana’s unfortunate passing, she simultaneously wrote about caregiving, senility and the profound connection between the two. Perez then studied Cognitive Psychology to understand Dementia in the elderly better, but prefers to write about it in a simple and easy-to-understand manner, geared to target the less-experienced but genuinely compassionate caregivers for senior family members.