As anyone who has had to do it before will tell you, caring for a parent who is going through dementia is no easy task. It’s challenging to help someone who doesn’t know you are half the time. Although you still love them, it’s a complicated process for everyone involved. That’s why we’ve made a guide on how to care for elderly parents with dementia. We want to make this as easy of a transition as we can for you and your family.
Learn How To Communicate
Trying to talk to your own parent is probably the most frustrating part of dealing with dementia. For as long as you’ve known them, conversing has been easy and something you did without thinking. Now, you can barely get a few sentences in before they lose track of what’s going on. Luckily, there are some tips that can help with this.
The first is to make sure you have their attention before you start talking. Address your parent by name and tell them who you are and your relation to them. Sure, this might feel tedious, but it will be very beneficial to your parent since they might not recognize you right away. Also, make sure you make your voice sound pleasant. Using a happy tone, smiling, and touching them on the shoulder will make them feel secure and more open to what you’re about to say next.
Now that you have their attention, it’s essential to provide them with a clearly expressed message. Use simple words and phrases. Don’t drone on for too long because they might lose track of what you’re saying. If you want to ask a question, ask one that doesn’t require too much thought. Yes-or-no questions are ideal. But if your question isn’t that simple, try to avoid making it one that calls for open-ended responses. You should also avoid one that has too many choices.
If your parent doesn’t seem to be responding to what you’re saying, use the same wording to repeat your statement or question. If there’s still not much of a response, don’t get frustrated with them. Instead, take a break. Give them a few minutes, and then try again. Try showing them what you’re talking about if they don’t comprehend what you’re saying. Visuals can help dementia patients with clarity.
Knowing how to listen is just as crucial as knowing how to talk. After you’ve said what you wanted to tell your parent, be patient and give them time to respond. Sometimes they need extra time to think about what you’ve said and what they want to say.
Don’t be afraid to give them suggestions on what to say. Their answer could be on the tip of their tongue. So, your recommendation could help them figure it out. Even if their response sounds like gibberish, take the time to think about it and try to find the meaning behind it. The answer you were looking for might be right there, even if it didn’t come in a clear form.
Generate a Calm Environment
It’s a good idea to make sure everything around your parent with dementia won’t disturb them. People with dementia don’t handle change too well. Therefore, it’s vital to keep things consistent. Constantly changing environments can lead them to feel confused and stressed out. Try to find items familiar to them in their room or an area they spend a lot of time in. If they’ve been having trouble remembering something significant, find ways to show them reminders of that person or event. If they don’t handle that stimulus well, be sure to remove it. However, take note that it could be just the thing they need to remember the individual or occurrence finally.
Reducing excess noise is a good idea as well. If you have kids, tell them to be quiet when grandma or grandpa is around. Ensure the volume of the tv in the next room isn’t loud and keep your music quiet. Minimizing these extra sounds will greatly help when you’re trying to communicate with your parent since those noises would be distracting to them. If you live in the city or another noisy area that you can’t control, invest in some noise-canceling headphones for them.
Create a Schedule
Because new or changing things in the life of a patient with dementia can cause them unneeded anxiety, setting up a daily routine can counteract this potential stress. Having them do the same or similar activities every day should help them remain calm.
However, this doesn’t mean you should let your loved one sit around the house all day. Allowing them to remain active will help them with any dementia wandering they’ve been doing. It will also keep them from becoming too aggressive. Having them go on walks around the neighborhood or do other minor physical activities will help with these things and improve their sleep at night.
Planning out your parent’s meals will benefit them, too. Staying healthy is a good idea for older people in general. However, certain foods and drinks can be especially harmful to people with dementia. For example, they should avoid alcohol at all costs because it can lead to increased confusion and agitation. Foods with high amounts of sugar and drinks with caffeine can be harmful as well. Both can lead to a lack of sleep. Since sleep is vital for people with dementia, you don’t want this to happen.
Have a Plan for When You’re Not Around
The most difficult part of our guide on how to care for elderly parents with dementia is knowing how to help them when you’re not around. Ideally, you’ll always be there to help them. But whether it’s your job, taking the kids somewhere, or a trip to the grocery store, you will have to leave your parent at home alone at some point.
Setting up a plan with them on what to do in case of an emergency is a good idea, but you can’t always rely on them to remember it when the time comes. Paying a professional to help take care of your parent can be a good idea, but that’s not always within the budget. Plus, having a caretaker around will take away a lot of the one-on-one time with your parent that you’ll come to cherish.
Another possibility you can look into is buying a safety watch for seniors. These smartwatches can keep track of your parent’s vital signs, including their heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure. You can also track where they are with GPS in case they ever go exploring without your knowledge. There are so many more features that these watches offer that will help you care for your loved one with dementia way better than you could have on your own. So, be sure to check them out on our website for more information.