Being the person in charge of caring for an aging parent is hard. It’s okay to say that it’s not easy, because physically and emotionally, caring for an elderly parent is exceptionally difficult.
When dementia is added to the mix, it becomes even more complex. You are handling aging with complicated cognitive and behavioural changes.
These changes are often unpredictable. The parent in the position of being cared for may become incredibly difficult. This is harder than anything else, too, as they believe that you are there to hurt and not help, and that can be heartbreaking.
A lot of people are choosing to continue to care for parents at home and are not putting them into nursing homes, especially right now during a pandemic. Not only will the pandemic make them more vulnerable to the virus in a nursing home environment, but the nursing home abuse during COVID-1 is still an issue and people prefer to avoid that entirely.
When you are caring for a parent with dementia, you are going to learn some very fast lessons about what they need, what you can offer, and how you can get used to this being your life for a while.
People with dementia often live for up to ten years after the disease is confirmed, and thats incredibly tough. As things get worse, the needs of your loved one will change.
You can ensure that you are caring for your parent by working closely with their healthcare team, and when you’re at home and caring, you need that support system.
Here are some tips to help you care for a parent with dementia:
1. Make The House Safe. Whether you move in with your parent, or they move in with you, safety is so important. Those with dementia don’t see danger in the same way that they would have, and often, they believe they are much younger than they really are.
So, whatever stage of dementia they’re in you need to ensure that you reduce the risk of falls. Assess each room as its own danger zone, and look at it from the point of view of a vulnerable person.
You need to remove any hazards, including removing the knobs of the stove so that your parent can’t start a fire. Consider adding railings to the bathroom and replacing the bath with a walk-in shower instead. Keep all halls and rooms well lit with motion-sensor lights, too.
2. Research Their Disease. If you’re caring for someone with dementia, then it makes more sense to ensure that you are aware of what the stages of dementia are and learn what it means to care for someone else.
Even things such as researching how to be patient with them while they are in a bad way can help. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to have some patience and restraint, which isn’t easy when you are caring for a parent.
3. Find Carer Groups. As hard and bewildering it is for your parent to deal with the fact that they have dementia, it’s equally hard for you to deal with them in their current health and you need support too.
It’s so normal to feel stressed out by their needs. Not only will you feel overwhelmed but you may be in the stages of grieving as you lose the parent you knew.
Support is going to change the way in which you can cope, and the more support you have, the better. Schedule time for yourself around your responsibilities, and make sure that you take regular breaks. You are not a superhero, so don’t try to be.
4. Be Open With The Kids. If you have children and you need to spend more time with Grandma, be honest about it. Tell them all about dementia in a child-friendly language and give them the help that they need to understand what’s going on.
The secrets you keep trying to protect the children will break you down, and kids are smart, they will know something is going on. This isn’t something that you should try to hide, so don’t try to hide it. Instead, get them to help out at home and support you as much as you need them to.
5. Talk To The Family. You may be the main carer for your parent, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get the rest of the family involved. You need them to understand the seriousness of your parent’s condition, and you need a back up for the days that you can’t always be there.
Regular family meetings will help you to all be on the same page with care needs, and if you all have the right numbers for nurses and professionals, you’re going to be better off in the long term.
6. Take Time Out. While you are balancing time with your parent and your job, you need to balance time with your partner and children, too.
Being a carer can easily take over your life, but it’s important that you spend time with your partner and the kids, too. Make time on a calendar if necessary; spontaneity may be much harder to manage when you are the only caregiver!
7. Know When It’s Time To Bring In Help. No, you don’t want to put your parent in a care home, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need carers other than you to come in and help you. Paid carers can be vetted by you so that you have the peace of mind that they are good people, and they can offer care services, companionship, housekeeping and personal care that you need a break from. It’s not something to be ashamed of – to need a break!
8. Keep Watch. As your parent progresses through dementia, it’s important that you notice any small changes that they are dealing with and you act accordingly. Often, dementia patients forget to tell someone when something feels wrong, so keeping on top of their mental and physical health is important.
Above all, give yourself grace. You won’t instinctively know what to do or what to say all the time. Hopefully the above tips help you navigate the challenges a little easier.