Caring for an aging parent is a complex task. When dementia care is part of the picture, it becomes a lot more difficult and confusing. Resisting care and digging in their heels are two hallmarks of dementia, and they are among the most common reasons that adult children look for help as elderly caregivers.
Cognitive and behavioural changes from dementia can occur unpredictably and this is when elderly care – whether at home or at an assisted living care facility – becomes even more important. If you are a caregiver for a senior with dementia, the most important thing is to first understand the disease. Although Alzheimer’s disease is just one type of dementia, it is the one with the most pronounced stages.
If you are unsure of how to deal with your stubborn elderly parents with dementia, you are not alone. Getting your parents to the doctor, gaining their cooperation, convincing them to bathe and brush their teeth, and communicating with them can be extremely challenging.
As the disease progresses, so will the needs of your loved one. You can care for the physical needs of your loved one by closely coordinating care with his or her physician. Just as each individual with Alzheimer’s disease progresses differently, so too can the caregiving experience vary widely from person to person. Therefore, to help you out, we have crafted a list of caregiving tips. Take a look!
1. Make Home a Safer Place
When a person transitions from the mild stage of dementia to the moderate stage of dementia, you may need to make some changes within the home to reduce fall risk. With a little resourcefulness and a lot of patience, you can provide your loved one with all of the comforts of home, plus an added layer of safety.
2. Ask Simple, Answerable Questions
Ask one question at a time; those with yes or no answers work best. Refrain from asking open-ended questions or giving too many choices. For example, ask, ‘Would you like to wear your white shirt or your blue shirt?’ Better still, show them the choices – visual prompts and cues also help clarify your question and can guide her response.
3. Schedule Wisely
Establish a daily routine. Set a specific time for your senior loved one to eat meals, take a nap, sleep, exercise, etc. Some tasks, such as bathing or medical appointments, are easier when the person is most alert and refreshed. Allow some flexibility for spontaneous activities or particularly difficult days.
4. Be Flexible
Over time, a person with dementia will become more dependent. To reduce frustration, stay flexible and adapt your routine and expectations as needed. For example, if he or she wants to wear the same outfit every day, consider buying a few identical outfits. If bathing is met with resistance, consider doing it less often.
5. Do Your Research
Caring for someone with dementia may not come naturally. It isn’t intuitive. In fact, sometimes the logical thing is the wrong thing. For example, if they have developed swallowing or chewing difficulties, insisting that they eat may not help. Learn about the disease and its treatment and consult with your loved one’s physician and ask their advice for caregiving.
6. Use Appropriate Body Language When Communicating
You may need to use some hand gestures and facial expressions to make yourself understood. Pointing or demonstrating can help. Touching and holding the person’s hand may help keep their attention and show them that you care. A warm smile and shared laughter can often communicate more than words can.
7. Give Autonomy in Daily Tasks
Much of the frustration in Alzheimer’s patients comes from losing the ability to perform basic daily tasks. If you are caring for your parents, it may be based on their having taught you how to perform these tasks when you were a child. This loss of ability can lead to stubbornness when you try to step in and do the tasks for them. When possible, let your loved one perform intimate or basic tasks on their own. This can reduce stress and frustration for both parties.
8. Stay Calm and Be Patient
Your loved one with dementia experiences moments of significant confusion, fear, and anger. When you notice that they are becoming agitated, it’s up to you to stay calm and be patient with them. One of the most common challenges home caregivers face is letting their emotions get the best of them. As a home caregiver, you don’t ever want your loved one to feel like they can’t accept your help. But if you react angrily when they start getting stubborn, you will only end up making the problem worse.
9. Know When It’s Time to Bring Outside Help
We’re all human and we all need help from time to time. Sometimes, even though every fibre of your being tells you that you should be able to handle the demands of caregiving, you don’t have to do it alone. If and when this time arrives, in-home care can be a true blessing for family elderly caregivers. In-home care services offer help with the many activities of daily living in the senior’s own home, including companionship, light housekeeping, grocery shopping, making meals, transportation and medication reminders. You can also consider respite care, which gives you a little time away for yourself.
As there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s or dementia – and only limited medical treatments available for the symptoms – it is your caregiving that can make the biggest difference to your loved one’s quality of life. That is a remarkable gift.
However, senior citizen care can also become all-consuming. As your loved one’s cognitive, physical, and functional abilities diminish over a period of years, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and neglect your own health and well-being. Therefore, while you take care of your older parents, it is also important to think about yourself and your health.
Patience and flexibility – along with self-care and the support of friends and family – can help you deal with the challenges and frustrations ahead.