As your parent ages, various health issues can develop, from aches and pains to lower energy to chronic health conditions. One of the common conditions involved with aging is dementia, or a group of symptoms that involves memory, social, language, and thinking abilities. This can make life challenging not just for your parent but also for you and other loved ones and friends. You undoubtedly want to help your parent suffering from dementia, but you may not know exactly how. Making daily life easier for your parent living with dementia can make things so much easier for your parent, you, and everyone else involved. Here are several things you can do to help your loved one. You don't need to try to incorporate all of them at once. Just pick one or two to start, and gradually lend more of a helping hand over time.
1. Simplify their world
With dementia can come overwhelm and confusion, so it's helpful to make everything in your parent's life much simpler. Declutter and organize the house, and keep everything neat and clean at all times. If needed, have a yard sale or give away excess belongings to a local charity that accepts donations. Develop and implement a simple daily routine, keeping your parent on a schedule from wake-up time until bedtime. For example, you can make sure your parent has meals at the same time each days, goes to bed and wakes up at the same times daily, exercises as the same time daily, and so on. Also minimize the amount of noise and distractions and keep the number of daily activities to a minimum. This will make life more predictable for your parent, which can be very helpful for someone living with dementia and the confusion that comes with it.
2. Help with daily activities
If your parent needs help with basic daily activities, such as getting dressed, getting out of bed, preparing meals, eating, and bathing, provide as much assistance as you can. This will help your parent successfully and calmly, and it will be encouraging for your parent to know that they can count on someone to be there for them. That said, try not to allow your parent to become too dependent, as it can be healthy for someone who is living with dementia to maintain a certain level of independence.
3. Keep things healthy and safe
Make sure you keep an eye on safety in your parent's home. This involves many issues and will be somewhat individualized based on the setup of your parent's home. But it can entail issues like making sure there are no rugs or electrical cords that your parent could trip over, setting things up so that your parent doesn't have to walk up or down stairs unassisted, setting up the shower or bathtub in a way that prevents slips or falls, and providing equipment such as a walker if needed. Also keep your parent's home healthy in various ways, such as keeping the kitchen and bathroom clean at all times.
4. Put yourself in their shoes
A little empathy goes a long way, and this is especially true when you're interacting with your parent who is living with dementia. You can express put yourself in their shoes and express empathy in many ways, such as by being a good listener when your parent wants to express thoughts, feelings, and ideas. People always feel validated, heard, and loved when others go the extra mile to respectfully understand what they're going through.
5. Treat your parent with respect
Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, no matter what their age or stage of life is, and no matter what health conditions or symptoms they might have. You've likely always looked up to your parent for all they has taught you and done for you, and they deserves your consistent respect. Respect their wishes and needs, and respect them as the person who you've always loved. Also show respect by talking to them as an adult, rather than talking down to them as if they are a child.
6. Stay calm, cool, and collected
Coping with dementia can be stressful for your parent, so they might be more likely to be tense and on edge. You can be the solid rock by remaining calm at all times. It's true that this can be easier said than done, but by practicing daily relaxation activities such as deep breathing and listening to serene music, you can maintain your calm and share that with your parent. When you're calm, you can do deep breathing and other relaxing activities with your parent.
7. Offer reassurance and hugs
When your parent is living with dementia, it can be a discouraging, embarrassing, and upsetting experience. They will need plenty of reassurance and encouragement, so feel free to give that. There are many ways to do so, such as by freely giving hugs plus gentle pats on the back, shoulder, or arm throughout the day. Look into their eyes and tell them sincerely that you are there for them and love them very much. This will undoubtedly be uplifting and soothing.
8. Communicate clearly
When a person is living with dementia, their communication abilities are typically hindered. Be understanding of this, and make sure you communicate both verbally and in writing in clear, concise ways. Use short sentences and simple words whenever possible. If your parent understands best through verbal or written communication, attempt to use that communication method to maximize their understanding. Help to facilitate their communication with other people, whether that's family members, friends, or medical practitioners by being the "go between" so to speak.
9. Coordinate with other people
Explain in a respectful way to people your parent knows the status of your parent's health. Going into as many or few details as are comfortable to you and your parent, tell family, friends, neighbors, and local contacts about your parent's diagnosis of dementia and how that manifests itself in your parent's interactions with other people. This will help others to have the same empathy for your parent that you do and will help others to adjust their expectations.
10. Maintain daily health habits
Assist them with maintaining healthy habits, including eating enough calories daily and eating nutrient-dense food. Also help them stay hydrated by drinking plenty of pure water. Make sure they exercise to the best of their ability, spend time in nature, get fresh air, and are exposed to sunlight.
11. Seek out solutions
Medical care and research are changing all the time, and seemingly at a faster pace as time goes on. As you have time, keep up with the latest information pertaining to dementia. Be open to solutions as they present themselves, and be aware of lifestyle factors such as nutrition and exercise that can help your parent. Even simple activities like listening to enjoyable, relaxing music can help someone who is living with dementia, so incorporate these as you become aware of them and are able to.
12. Give little gifts
Your parent probably loved all the little gifts you used to make for them, especially the handmade ones, when you were growing up. They will love those just as much now. You don't have to spend much money to create a wonderful gift that will bring your parent joy and warm their heart. Even just making a card to say "I care about you" will provide delight and bring a smile to their face. If it's in your budget to do so, you can buy little gifts here and there, such as stuffed animals or picture frames that will be wonderful surprises. You know your parent best and probably have some great ideas for thoughtful gifts that your parent will love.
13. Keep track of medical and other appointments
Schedule and keep track of all necessary medical appointments for your parent, and if needed help them get to appointments. It's important to receive the proper and consistent care by going to all necessary appointments. The same holds true for other appointments that can benefit your parent who is living with dementia, whether that is physical therapy, massage, or appointments with a nutritionist.
14. Practice self care
It might seem a bit counterintuitive at first, but when you take good care of yourself, you can better help others, including your parent who is living with dementia. Your self-care routine should include plenty of daily sleep and nutrient-packed meals. Stay away from junk food and processed food, and focus instead on healthy protein and fats, fresh vegetables and fruits, and whole grains. It can be difficult to find time to exercise when you're helping to care for a parent who has dementia, but even fitting in 5 minutes of stretching or walking can still help you maintain your health and stamina. Also practice stress management, and deal with your own feelings that come about as a result of your parent's diagnosis of dementia.
Dementia care for your parent
Another key way you can help your parent who is living with dementia is by reaching out into your community and requesting assistance when needed. A home care service provides the ideal way to get this type of loving, nurturing, and understanding support. Mavencare offers personalized home care services with convenience and transparency to keep seniors safe and independent at home. We apply our extensive experience in healthcare, senior care, and technology, to provide the highest quality and family-focused home care. If you need a helping hand in your home, please fill out the form below and a care coordinator will contact you right away.