Tips to Take Care of a Parent with Dementia or Alzheimer's

By Holly Kramer

If you are reading this, you may have a parent who has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's. While this can be a difficult time for you and your parents, it is essential to remember that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you care for your parent, and this guide will provide some basic information on how to get started.

Tips to Take Care of a Parent with Dementia or Alzheimer's

What is Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia that causes memory, thinking, and behavior problems. Symptoms typically develop slowly and worsen over time, eventually interfering with daily tasks. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of all cases.

Alzheimer's disease consists of mild, moderate, and severe stages:

Mild: In the mild stage, symptoms are not noticeable and can be mistaken for normal aging. People may have trouble remembering recent events or conversations, but they can still carry on a conversation and live independently.

Moderate: In the moderate stage, symptoms become more noticeable and interfere with daily life. People may have trouble remembering familiar people and places, and they may start to withdraw from social activities. They may also have difficulty with basic tasks like dressing or bathing.

Severe: In the severe stage, symptoms are powerful and can no longer be ignored. A person may lose the ability to communicate, recognize family members or take care of themselves. They may become bedridden and require full-time care.

Investigate outside care

Even if your parent is not ready to leave their home, take the time to research Alzheimer's care communities in your area. These facilities can provide your parent with specialized if they need it, and they will also have staff trained to deal with the challenges that come with dementia. If you are unsure whether a facility is suitable for your parent, you can always ask for a tour or consult with their doctor.

Once you have chosen a care facility, it is essential to stay involved in your parent's care. This means keeping track of their medications, making sure they are eating and drinking correctly and helping them with activities of daily living. It can also be helpful to attend support groups or counseling sessions, as this can help you deal with the stress of caregiving.

Create a routine

One of the best things you can do for your parent is creating a daily routine. This routine should include activities that are appropriate for their stage of dementia, and it should be followed as closely as possible every day.

For example, suppose your parent is in the mild stage of dementia. In that case, their routine might include:

  • Taking a walk in the morning.
  • Eating lunch at noon.
  • Taking a nap in the afternoon.
  • Watching television in the evening.

If your parent is in the moderate or severe stage of dementia, their routine might be more basic, including activities like eating, bathing, and going to the bathroom.

The important thing is to create an easy routine for your parent to follow, including activities they enjoy. A routine will help your parent feel more comfortable and secure, and it will make your job as a caregiver easier.

Tips to Take Care of a Parent with Dementia or Alzheimer's

Communicate is key

It is essential to communicate clearly with a parent if they have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's. This means speaking slowly and using simple words and sentences. It is also essential to be patient, as your parent may not be able to process information as quickly as they used to.

If your parent is having trouble communicating, there are some things you can do to help. For example, you can provide them with written instructions or cues, use gestures or body language, and encourage them to use yes/no questions.

Respond with affection and reassurance.
It's normal to feel frustrated when communicating with your loved one. However, it's essential to respond with patience and affection. This will help your parent feel more comfortable and secure, and it will make the experience easier for both of you.

It is also essential to be aware of your body language and tone of voice, as these can communicate more than words. For example, if you speak in a loud or forceful voice, your parent may feel like they are being scolded. If you talk in a soft or gentle voice, your parent may feel like you are trying to comfort them.

Ask simple, answerable questions.
Because they may have trouble processing complicated information, asking questions that can be answered with a yes or no can be helpful when communicating.

For example, instead of asking, "What did you do today?" you could ask, "Did you go for a walk today?" Asking questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no can help keep the conversation focused and on track.

Plan for the future

As a caregiver, it is essential to plan for the future. This includes ensuring that your parent has a legal guardian and an advanced directive. It is also necessary to have a power of attorney for financial matters and a health care proxy.

You should also think about what will happen if you can no longer care for your parent. This might include finding memory care communities near you or hiring in-home care. It is essential to have a plan to be prepared for anything that might happen in the future.

Ensure your loved one is eating right

It is essential to ensure that your parent is eating a healthy diet if diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's. This means including plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and limiting saturated fats, salt and sugar intake.

You should also make sure that your parent is getting enough fluids. This is especially important if they are taking medications that can cause dehydration. Elderly adults are more likely to be dehydrated, so it is essential to make sure that they drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Tips to Take Care of a Parent with Dementia or Alzheimer's

Other challenges around dementia and how to tackle them

Keep the home front safe: Remove any tripping hazards from their home, including things like loose rugs and electrical cords. You should also install grab bars in the bathroom and ensure all stairways have railings.

Handle behavior issues: If your parent is exhibiting troubling behavior associated with dementia, try to patiently identify the cause. This could be something like pain, hunger, thirst or boredom. Once you recognize the pain point, you have a much better shot at addressing it in a way that can calm your loved one down.

Manage the meds: Make sure that they take their medications as prescribed and keep track of their side effects.

Don't forget to pay the bills: Do not neglect your parent's finances. Ensure that you are appropriately managing their money and keeping up with their financial responsibilities.

Taking care of a parent with dementia or Alzheimer's can be a complex and challenging experience. By following these tips, you can make the experience easier for you and your parent.

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