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How to Deal with Dementia in a Parent

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An adult daughter and her elderly mother with dementia are smiling while bonding at home. it’s extra important to stay positive with them.

Regardless of which type of retirement community a person chooses, the time spent in the community is short compared to the rest of their life. And for some older adults, there is a time before moving to a retirement community when they begin needing assistance. If they develop severe dementia, that could lead to memory care in the future.

You don’t need special training to deal with dementia in a parent effectively. Simply remembering to stay positive and calm, keep the questions simple, and break down activities and tasks into smaller chunks are all excellent ways to help your loved one.

In addition to providing several tips on helping your parent, we’re also reviewing a few ideas on potential solutions for troubling behavior.

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term that covers a range of medical conditions. For example, Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia—and it’s also the most common form. Thinking skills and cognitive abilities are two of the primary things affected by dementia. The severity and type of dementia typically dictate the symptoms and how bad they are.

In addition to thinking and cognitive abilities, behavior, feelings, and relationships can also be affected.

An important thing to note is that dementia is not a normal part of aging. Our bodies do change as we age—our eyes don’t work as well as they used to, and we can certainly become more forgetful. But there are circumstances where other things like a vitamin deficiency or an untreated thyroid problem could cause dementia symptoms.

How to Deal with Dementia in a Parent

Reading an article on dealing with dementia could provide some solid strategies. But when it comes to dealing with a close loved one like a parent, it may not always be black and white. Here are 6 tips that you can implement when helping your parent.

Keep the Mood Positive

Not everyone enjoys growing old, and you probably know you’re parents better than anyone. So, if they are already prone to having a low mood or being negative, it’s extra important to stay positive with them. 

There is evidence that suggests depression throughout life can lead to an increased risk of dementia. But the same study also shows that depression can be a common reaction to the early symptoms of dementia.

Keep Questions Simple

Even without a condition like dementia developing, complex conversations can become more difficult as we age. So, adding a condition that directly affects thought and memory abilities can certainly create new issues with difficult questions.

If you need to ask your parent a difficult or complex question, you have a couple of options. One option may be to ask the question in a different, more simple way. Another could be breaking a complex question into smaller individual but related questions.

Break Activities & Tasks Into Smaller Steps

Difficult conversations or questions aren’t the only things that may become difficult as dementia worsens. Complex activities or tasks with a lot of steps may end up in frustration. Unfortunately, sometimes we still need to perform these tasks from time to time. Break up the tasks into smaller or more simple steps, if possible. 

Make Sure You Have Their Attention

Attention span is another thing that suffers alongside memory in someone with dementia. So, even if you’ve broken a task into small steps, you’ll likely need to give them gentle follow-up reminders about what they’re doing.

When discussing something with your parent or giving them instructions, it’s important to make sure you have their attention to ensure they understand.

A daughter going through some old family pictures with her elderly mother to recollect good memories.

Remember the Good Times

With depression being so common a symptom in dementia, it’s that much more important that your loved one stays cheerful and positive. Remembering the past and reminiscing about the “good old days” could be a way to keep some of that joy alive.

Unfortunately, memory issues may make this more difficult. Instead of asking your parent if they remember a happy event from their past, tell them you remember it and describe it. Putting them on the spot with a question could cause frustration if they can’t remember.

Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Cues

Even if your loved one still has effective verbal communication, it may begin diminishing in some cases of dementia. If they cannot communicate their needs and wants, they may use non-verbal communication. 

Remember that this may come across as anger, frustration, or other disruptive behaviors. This could be a case of an unmet need or desire that your parent cannot adequately describe rather than a blatant negative behavior.

Handling Troublesome Behavior

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to handling troublesome behavior. It’s important to remember that it’s unlikely your parent is intentionally acting out negatively. A few things to consider when dealing with dementia in a parent are:

  • Pay attention to body language and language to get ahead of a problem before it starts.
  • Think back to what happened before an incident and try to determine the trigger.
  • Use a tried and true fix for the individual. For example, some people find music calming, whereas others enjoy going for a walk.
  • Think back to your reaction to your parent. Did it help or hurt the situation? Try and fix or repeat it the following time.

Discuss Senior Living Options With Us

Your mom or dad doesn’t have to live in a retirement community to get the help they need with dementia. There are family resources available for free on our website. Additionally, if you need advice or it’s time to start looking seriously at senior living communities, reach out to us today. Our compassionate staff can answer your questions or book a community tour.

Written by Lifespark

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