Looking after an older adult with frailty is a challenge, but a dementia patient is even more difficult. Progressive cognitive decline often means that the person you’re caring for can’t make decisions that are in their best interests. In advanced cases, many people can’t make any decisions for themselves at all. You are always on the lookout for problems such as bed sores and the need for personal care.
Taking care of a parent with dementia at home isn’t easy. This article, however, is here to help. We’re going to take a look at some of the strategies that you can employ to make your job easier.
Combine Regular Care With Alternative Therapies
While medical professionals will usually prescribe patients with dementia a regimen of drugs, nothing is stopping you from exploring alternative therapies. What’s more, many of these interventions often prove highly beneficial, enhancing your parent’s quality of life.
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that people have been practising for thousands of years. People with dementia often find that they benefit from acupuncture. Following sessions, many carers report that their parents seem sharper and more focused. Chinese medicine doctors also often use a variety of herbal remedies too, most of which come from safe herbs and spices used in cooking.
Light therapy can be an essential tool in the management of dementia. Researchers think that using infrared light can enhance brain function and lead to increased awareness – at least temporarily.
For years, investigators have known that diet plays a significant role in the development of dementia in some patients. Just as with heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, what people eat makes a difference.
While there is no evidence that nutritional interventions can reverse the progression of the disease, there are suggestions that it may be able to slow it down. Basing the diet around healthy foods could help fight changes in the brain that lead to cognitive decline.
Music is an integral part of dementia care. Many people experiencing cognitive decline find that they can still enjoy the sound of music, even when the disease is highly advanced. Singing together with your parents can also help as it allows them to use well-worn brain circuits to interact with the people around them. It’s a great social activity.
Take A Course On How To Provide Adequate Dementia Home Care
People who have dementia have special care needs. Agencies that offer care services will often supply dementia carers with the necessary training to meet their needs. Thus, if you are looking after a parent, you can sometimes find it challenging to manage everything yourself.
Many people in your position, therefore, seek out training for how to care for people with dementia. Training is available through a variety of channels, both online and from local care agencies in your area. During the training, you’ll learn about the various stages of the disease, the experience of people with dementia, and the risk factors associated with the condition. At the end of the course, you’ll be in a much better position and know what to expect.
When a parent is in the moderate to severe stage of dementia, it is not uncommon for loved ones to feel a high level of caregiver stress and experience grief. Training gives you the preparatory tools and knowledge you need to ensure that you can cope with what is happening and still provide a high level of care to your parents. Trainers will often share their copings strategies for dealing with difficult situations. Looking after a parent with dementia can be tough, but there are solutions.
Accept That You’re Not The Perfect Caregiver
Just as there’s no such thing as the perfect spouse, child, parent or sibling, there’s also no such thing as the perfect caregiver.
Unfortunately, many voluntary carers hold themselves to impossibly high standards, believing that they need to be there for their parent every second of the day. Their entire lives become focused on their role as a carer, and they self-attack every time they make a mistake.
The truth, though, is that there is no such thing as a perfect carer. Just like everyone else, you experience the full range of human emotions. Sometimes you’ll feel happy and joyful, and other times, frustrated and impatient. Just remember, that’s okay: it’s all a part of the caregiving journey. Believing that you should be able to maintain perfection at all times is a recipe for exhaustion.
Tell Your Parent What To Do
As a dementia carer, you need to become more confident in giving instructions. People living with dementia find it difficult to respond to simple questions, like “what do you want for dinner tonight?” as a result of their condition.
As a carer looking after a parent, the best strategy is to be less consultative and offer more instructions. In practice, this means telling your parent what you’re cooking for dinner or where you’re taking them for the day.
Know That It’s Normal To Doubt A Dementia Diagnosis
When a doctor first diagnoses your parent with dementia, it can come as a shock. Sure, you might think, dementia is something that happens to other people, but not to my own family.
On occasion, most dementia patients show signs of lucidity. These are often fleeting moments when they appear to be their old selves. For a moment, the brain makes a familiar connection, and the person you once knew is back again. As you observe your parent’s cognitive capacity declining, however, you’ll generally come to accept the diagnosis. However, there will be times when you’ll doubt it.
When these moments happen, it is not a sign that the dementia diagnosis is false. It is an opportunity to savour the moment and communicate important information.
Lying To People With Dementia May Help Reduce Stress
All our lives we’re told that we should be honest with the people around us. Always telling the truth to a person with dementia, however, can lead to higher levels of distress.
When a person has dementia, they are unable to interpret the world or their position in it accurately. They may believe that they have a specific role in their community, even when the last time they did so was twenty years ago.
“Therapeutic lying” is a technique that many people use when providing dementia care at home. Here, you essentially go along with your parent’s stories, so long as they don’t put them in harm’s way.
You parent, for instance, might believe that they are a caregiver and looking after you. Instead of explaining that what they believe is wrong and you’re looking after them, many experienced carers have learned to go with the flow. Those with dementia cannot separate fact from fantasy, and so trying to ground them in reality is a lost cause. When you use therapeutic lying, you’re not encouraging flights of fancy; you’re just trying to reduce the stress that they feel when you contradict them.
Remember, people with dementia no longer respond to logical arguments. Even if what you’re saying makes perfect sense, your parent may no longer have that part of their brain that regulates behaviour. You may believe that you’re doing and saying everything right, but you may still run into trouble.
Carers need to understand that when a parent has dementia, a lot of their reasoning abilities can disappear. Redirecting them or making an argument as to why they should do something just won’t work.
Prepare For Higher Caregiving Requirements Over Time
Unfortunately, as dementia progresses, so too will the needs of your loved one. In the early stages of the disease, you may need to implement strategies in the home to reduce fall risk and prepare meals. As the condition advances, you may need to provide around-the-clock bedside care. Eventually, dementia care will become a full-time job. If you plan on doing it yourself, you need to make work and financial arrangements in advance. You may also have to take a career break and provide long-term care in the latter stages.
Stick With The Drug Regimen
While regular medicine cannot reverse the disease, it can make it more manageable for some patients and their families. Where possible, stick with the diagnosis and treatment regimen and move forward. Early in the progression of the disease, drug treatment can have a profound effect on how lucid your parent appears. Even towards the latter stages, there is evidence that it can improve cognition and quality of life.
Evidence suggests that the more parents with dementia move, the better it is for their brains. Movement helps to stimulate the body to repair and protect its tissues, including the brain. Many caregivers find that regular exercise leads to an uptick in cognitive performance and an improvement in function. You may find, for instance, that after a stroll in the park, your parent is better able to recognise faces or understand instructions. They may also discuss memories that previously appeared lost.
Take Time Out For Yourself
Looking after a parent with dementia is exhausting. Not only is it a very physical job, but you also have to deal with all the emotional baggage of seeing your parents in decline too.
If you are a caregiver, it is crucial to take some time out occasionally and hand the work over to somebody else. Professional care agencies provide something called “respite care” – a temporary service designed to fill in where you left off while you’re on a break.
Having time away from your parent can help you both appreciate the relationship that you have. It also allows you to recharge your batteries, get some distance, and do something a little different from your day-to-day chores. Many people who choose respite care find that they feel refreshed and relaxed when they come back. Taking a break allows them to provide a higher standard of care than if they had worked right on through.
Ask Friends And Family For Support
If you’re looking after a parent with dementia, you can sometimes feel alone. It’s tiring work, and you often have to be in the house at all times, supervising.
If you’re struggling to cope, then ask friends and family for support. They don’t have to take over duties directly: often a friendly listening ear is all you need. Speak with them regularly, update them on how you’re getting on, and find ways that they can make your life easier, such as bringing the shopping.
Remember, if you’re struggling, it’s okay to ask for support. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Friends and family can often by vacuuming the floor or tidying up the kitchen.
Know That It’s Okay To Educate Your Doctor
For doctors, examining a patient with dementia is a challenge. Because they don’t know the individual or live with them, they can often struggle to get a sense of perspective of the condition. They can’t compare what they were like before to how they are now.
Your role, therefore, is to tell the doctor what you’ve noticed. They will then use that information to build a more accurate picture of the current condition of the patient and recommend treatments. The type of management doctors recommend is intimately related to the information you provide as the primary caregiver.
Use Domiciliary Care Services
Dementia care, Australia, is among the best in the world. Care agencies offer qualified, trained staff who know how to manage clients who have dementia.
If you’re struggling to cope with the demands of looking after a parent with dementia, you can share the load with a professional agency. Furthermore, with government support and an ACAT assessment, you can often get your care needs subsidised or for free. Having an extra pair of hands reduces the burden on you and gives you the freedom to enjoy more of what life has to offer.
Caring for a parent with dementia at home is a challenge, but with these strategies, you’re in a much better position to help.