The first thing you need to come to terms with, if you’ve chosen to care for a loved one with dementia, is that nothing about it will be easy.
As primary caregiver to a parent with dementia the challenges are such that you’ll need a good support system, whether from family, extended family or from dementia support groups.
This is essential if you are to hold on to your own sanity as you watch the person your parent once was slowly fading away, knowing that there’s nothing you can do, other than to love him or her, and to make life as simple as possible for them.
Here are a few tips we hope will make caring for an aging parent with dementia a little easier:
Find and accept support
You’re not going to be the only one that’s decided to care for your parent with dementia. There are many out there who are doing the same, and who will also benefit from your support as you learn more about dementia.
Learning to ask for help is very important if you’re to be of any benefit to an increasingly confusing world for your parent, and when you share the challenges you’re facing as primary caregiver, the load becomes a little easier to bear.
You’ll be able to share with others what’s working and what isn’t, which will be reciprocated, leading to yet another level of knowledge and understanding to try in caring for your parent.
You’ll need and deserve someone you can vent with, so that your frustrations don’t boil over into impatience and anger expressed at your parent.
If you think about how you’d feel if you found yourself in the same place as your parent is, dazed and confused about everything from where you are to what year it is, you know that you’d appreciate dollops of compassion and empathy.
It is easy to become frustrated, frightened and disheartened when your parent reaches a point where he or she doesn’t even recognise you. Again, putting yourself in their shoes will make it easier for you to find the strength to nurture as you walk this difficult road with your loved one.
Accept that there’ll be good days and bad days
Knowing that dementia is a progressive disease without a cure, the most positive contributions you can make will be those that include keeping your parent comfortable in surroundings that are familiar.
Remember that at its core, dementia is far more than simple memory loss!
Maintaining a simple routine will also make keeping your parent happy and comfortable a little easier. Dragging your parent living with dementia out to tea, no matter how well-intentioned, will simply produce severe stress due to unfamiliar surroundings.
There’ll be good days, and there’ll be bad days on which things are simply more difficult to manage, but if you remember that it’s all unfortunately a part of the disease, the difficult days will be a little easier to handle.
Nurture the good days so that you can shore up the strength for the more difficult days, but never try to force the good, the result will simply be pointless frustration!
Prepare for personality changes
While one of the main symptoms of dementia is memory loss, there are areas of the brain that are affected differently in each individual. One of the most obvious manifestations are those of personality change.
You may find that a parent that was always quietly spoken and well-mannered suddenly becomes verbally abusive, using language they ordinarily would never have used, and this is just one example of what you may be facing.
Take time out
Your health, mentally and physically, has to be taken care of if you’re to be of any use in caring for a parent with dementia.
Depression and anxiety often manifest in those who have chosen to be the main caregiver of a loved one with dementia, and to avoid this spiralling out of control, it’s important to make plans to take time out to nurture yourself as well.
Dementia care is a specialised field and there are professional caregivers who can step in to give you the time you need to recharge your batteries.
CareChamp offers dementia care on a full time or part-time basis, depending on your needs, carried out by highly trained and experienced caregivers.
If all you need is a couple of hours a few days a week, the management team at CareChamp will work with you to create a flexible plan that’ll make it easy to plan for the time you need to recoup your energies.
Planning for relief through the assistance of a caregiver should be one of the first things you do as soon as you decide to care for a loved one with dementia, so choose it as step one in making the challenges ahead a little easier!