You’ve noticed something. As have other family members. And now things are getting worse. You, like the others, are worried about a whole lot of scary scenarios. The time has come to talk to your parents about dementia.
The elephant in the room
This can be a confronting time for both you and your parent. After all, they raised you, gave you life advice, and applied band-aids when you were hurt. Now, in a sense, they are hurting. Their abilities and confidence are shrinking, and your family are worried they may endanger themselves.
So, like all big jobs, the best course of action is to plan. Map out what course of direction to take… does your parent need to move to a more appropriate accommodation, or would a care worker be the best solution?
Then, it’s a matter of gently raising the issue. Rather than coldly stating your concerns, why not ‘run off’ an observation. If you spot things that are a sign of a diminishing mind, use that as a conversation kick-starter?
Look for things like:
• A poorly maintained yard
• Some recent damage to their car
• Bad hygiene or poor grooming
• Low meal preparation, etc.
And, if you’re aware of a similar situation where a dementia sufferer is now benefitting from support, refer to your parent how their life has dramatically changed for the better.
Pacify without provoking
In a general sense, when it comes to this type of conversation, there are usually three camps you could find yourself in. The first is an environment of openness, where you have always had an easy-talking relationship and, if anything, a good chat about health, changing circumstances, as well as how best to plan things, is well received all around.
The second talk encompasses the same initial tones, however as the thinking has decreased and worries heighten, concern and lowered self-esteem may initiate a limited conversation.
The third scenario may be closed lips, obstruction, ignorance… if not outright hostility. You may even be accused of ‘doing anything to get the house!’
Remember to not take this personally. You are not dealing with the same parent you’ve known all these years, their brain is now functioning differently.
Call in the cavalry
In most circumstances, a good rule-of-thumb is to engage your loved one’s medical practitioner.
This can be done in an open meeting with essential family members; or if there is limited interest from your parent perhaps arrange a ‘general check-up’ and then let the doctor introduce the subject. As your loved one’s respected health advisor, the doctor will carry substantial weight in the direction she/he prescribes.
From here, it’s a matter of setting some solid decisions. Again, your doctor will be quite experienced in offering advice.
Helping your family member to continue doing things that have been a part of their daily routine for years could make them feel more confident and self assured. Sure, they may realise their memory is deteriorating with simple tasks becoming tougher to perform, but a plan that also supports their self esteem will be a huge win for your loved one — every day.
We are what we eat
As your relative’s mental functions deteriorate, so too may the diet. They may forget the importance of good nutrition, let alone eating at all. So, you’ll have to give some thought about regular meal creation or scheduling some sort of ‘meal on wheels’ delivery.
A helpful eye
Have a think about the basics of home life: the things one does at home, like making a cuppa, watching the telly, watering the garden, sweeping the floor, etc. Then, go about making this as easy as can be, as remembering where everyday items are kept can become tricky for somebody with dementia.
And one of the best ways of doing this is to attach small pictures in specific places, as a reminder of what things are and where they are kept.
For example, a picture of a cup and saucer could be placed on the door of a cupboard that contains cups, saucers and mugs; affix a picture of a broom on the mop and broom cupboard, etc.
Think for your parents
As medication can create lots of sleep issues, if possible, try to limit your relative from day naps. This will increase the likelihood of your loved one getting a better night’s sleep.
As one gets older, so too the call of nature gets louder. Therefore, to prevent your relative getting hurt in the middle of the night as they search for the facilities, consider installing subtle night lights in the appropriate places.
Patience is your virtue
Speaking of appropriate, now is the right time to consider how you are reacting to the changing circumstances. After all, it’s only natural that your relative is probably frustrated with themselves and annoyed at their circumstances, so how you treat them and respond to their acts of forgetfulness will be a big factor for their self respect.
Dementia is a tough time for all concerned. One of the best things for everyone, is for you to keep your patience in a very trying time. It all boils down to the great weight of love and/or respect you feel for your parent. And that is something certainly worth remembering.