Caring for a parent with dementia is not easy. It comes with mental, physical, and emotional stress. It’s something that no one can ever prepare you for. It is particularly challenging because you’re asked to care for someone while dealing with a personal struggle. The struggle is in accepting that your parents are with dementia. That alone is a mountain to unpack, and yet it would seem like you won’t have time for it. It’s hard to care for someone when you also have to care for yourself at the same time. It’s hard to treat someone’s wound when you’re also wounded.
We prepared this article to help you. Please consider the following tips from expert caregivers when it comes to navigating life while caring for a parent with dementia:
You need to accept the fact that you’re not prepared for everything. Once you’ve accepted this, you can quietly contemplate all your questions and things that you think you need to do. These questions and concerns will be your guide when researching.
Caring for a parent with dementia is a struggle because most people don’t truly know what the situation entails. Most of the things that we think are logical often end up wrong when it comes to this arena. Hence, it is of prime importance that you do full research on the disease. Always consult your parent’s physician if there are matters that confuse you. Equip yourself with the right information at all times.
Create a safe space.
The risk of falling and slipping is high when your parent is with dementia. This is why you should go out of your way when it comes to making your home a safe space. Consider the following:
- ensure that all tools, chemicals, cleaning supplies, and toxic materials are properly and safely stored
- check your basement, garage, yard, and workshop for possible dangers
- secure that your stove is safe and inaccessible to your parent with dementia
- use appliances that automatically shut off
- post emergency numbers and addresses in a place where everyone can easily see
- regularly check your smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and carbon monoxide detectors
- use safety stickers on slippery surfaces
- add grab bars in the bathroom
- consider having a walk-in shower
- ensure that all rooms and walkways are well-lit
Know how to handle caregiver stress.
You will feel high levels of stress while caring for a parent with dementia. It will get all the more challenging as the disease progresses. This is why it’s important for you to know how to regulate your emotions. If you can, reach out to a social worker and ask for coping strategies. Make it a point to schedule ‘me-time’ to ensure that you have time to care for yourself. Always remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Openly discuss caregiving with your family and children.
You should be fully transparent with your children. You should take time to discuss the disease, its implications, and the demands of caregiving. It will be better if you could allow your children to assist you in one way or another. They should feel empowered and encouraged to be part of the caregiving process. Everyone in the family should always feel free to openly discuss caregiving matters. Teach your children to play along with your parents if they’re saying something that doesn’t make sense. If you ask young kids, you can ask them to read for your parents.
Schedule quality time with your children and partner.
Apart from making it a point to ensure that everyone knows that caregiving is a topic that they can openly discuss, you should also make it a point to prioritize family time. Caregiving can easily take up everyone’s energy and attention. You’d find yourself not having time for your spouse and children so you need to make time for it. Have a family calendar where you can easily check everyone’s schedule. Make family time mandatory. Know that you won’t have it if you won’t make time for it. Schedule fun activities that can take away the stresses of caregiving.
Schedule family meetings on a regular basis.
This regular family meeting should be separate from quality bonding time. With regular family meetings, everyone will get to voice their concerns when it comes to caregiving. In the meeting, you should always openly discuss the many impacts of caregiving on your family. Discuss stress points and grievances. This should be done on a weekly basis. Do the following to ensure successful family meetings:
- Have a defined regular schedule
- Have a defined list of people who will be responsible for caregiving
- All meetings should have an agenda
- When expressing, you should always stick to the facts
- Always send a summary of all discussed points right after every meeting
Closely monitor your parent’s changing needs.
Like Homestyle Aged Care experts, you should make it a point to closely monitor your parent’s changing physical needs. People are mostly aware of memory problems among dementia patients and they often overlook changing physical needs. You will need to take note of the following needs:
- Can your parents still dress themselves?
- Can your parents still communicate effectively?
- Can your parents still swallow easily?
Have a standard to help you decide when it’s time to ask for outside help.
You should know when it’s time to ask for outside help. You and your family should have a standard when it comes to deciding if outside help is already necessary. If you know that caregiving is already taking a toll on you and your family members, then it is probably time to look for in-care services that can provide companionship, housekeeping, cooking, and caregiving services to your parents. Always remember that it’s perfectly fine to ask for help.