Caring for one’s parents is a complex task, especially when dementia care is part of the picture. Your parents may resist care as behavioral changes from Alzheimer’s disease occur unpredictably. Hence, Alzheimer’s and dementia care involves flexibility and patience.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease – symptoms multiply in severity as time goes on. As a result, your responsibilities in taking care of daily tasks will gradually increase as the disease progresses.
What is Alzheimer’s?
If you are caring for someone with dementia, it is important to know everything about the disease. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common and pronounced stages of dementia. It is a progressive disease that degenerates brain cells and eventually causes death.
The early symptoms of the disease are forgetting recent conversations and events. As the disease progresses, a parent will suffer severe memory impairment and become unable to carry out daily tasks.
In advanced stages, severe loss of the brain function will cause malnutrition, dehydration, or infection, which results in death.
Tips to Take Care of a Parent with Alzheimer’s Disease
As the disease progresses, it can be hard to take care of a parent with dementia. Frustration can easily build up. There are certain things that you can do to take care of them as well as ease your frustration while caring for them.
Make a Plan
Your first step is to create a plan for your parent’s care. You can talk to a support group or a social worker with expertise in dementia care to help you make a checklist. Professionals can help you to understand the symptoms of the disease.
Make sure to create a flexible plan as it might change according to your parent’s needs and health. Moreover, your parent suffering from Alzheimer’s disease should be involved in these conversations. It’s important to understand their choices and wants, and consider them in your plan.
Scheduling can help you establish a daily routine. It will help you keep your parents safe and make your day stable, predictable and less stressful. Schedule bath times, dining, and medical appointments at the times of the day when your parent is most refreshed or when they seem to be calmer.
However, be flexible to take into account difficult days or spontaneous activities. Observe when they are more agreeable, whether it’s the start of the day or when the day ends. Scheduling will help your parent become familiar with the daily routine.
Keep Track of Symptoms
Caring for someone with dementia isn’t intuitive. Hence, it’s very important to keep a record of everything. Note down any changes or problems you notice and consult your doctor. Your parent’s communication skills, memory, or ability to perform daily tasks may gradually deplore.
Moreover, sometimes the logical thing isn’t right. For instance, if they have developed chewing or swallowing difficulties, insisting that they eat will not help. Understand the disease and treatment, talk about it with your doctor and ask for advice.
Also, don’t ignore any symptoms or changes that you notice. If you look at the notes that you’ve written, you will understand how things are changing.
Create a Safe Environment
When your parent progresses from mild stage to moderate stage of dementia, it can impair judgment and problem-solving skills. You will have to make certain changes within the home to minimize fall risk.
- Some areas of the home are risky for your parent’s safety. Take a look at the basement, kitchen, garage, yard, etc. and ensure all sharp objects, chemicals, and tools are safely stored.
- Avoid extension cords, long wires, and scatter rugs that could cause a fall. Place grab bars and handrails in uncertain areas.
- As your parent will tend to forget things, they might turn on the stove in the kitchen but forget to turn it off. This can be very dangerous. You can use a concealed gas valve to avoid such dangers.
- You can also use kitchen appliances that shut off automatically. Ensure kitchen knives, bottles of seasoning, etc. are not kept on kitchen countertops.
- If you’re storing dangerous and risky items such as medicines, chemicals, tools, knives, guns, alcohol, etc., make sure to put a lock on such storage cabinets.
- Make sure all smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly and check them once every 2 weeks.
- It’s important to ensure that all walkways and rooms are well-lit. A well-lit house can prevent an accident.
- Regularly check water temperature as very hot water can cause burns.
Regularly explain daily tasks. However, while explaining, give simple instructions as people with Alzheimer’s disease understand clear instructions. Your parent shouldn’t be completely dependent on you.
Allow your parent to perform daily tasks with the least amount of assistance. Use cues to give instructions. For instance, if you name a drawer for what is kept inside, your parent will correctly place all items as per instructions. This can help to ease things for both your parent and you.
Furthermore, when giving instructions, don’t give them too many choices. For example, give them only two outfits to choose from or ask if your parent would prefer a cold or hot beverage. It would help your parent with Alzheimer’s disease to focus and make decisions.
Moreover, if you’re having a conversation with your parent, minimize distractions in the surroundings, like turn off the TV, tell your kids to go out and play, etc. They will be able to concentrate and be involved in the discussion.
Hospitals and Care Centers
Unfortunately, at times you are not able to deal with the disease on your own, leading to a lot of frustration. If this time arrives, you should ask for help. In-home care services like hiring a nurse can be helpful.
There are care centers and hospitals that can take care of your parent if you’re traveling. Initially, the idea of sending your parent to a care center might seem daunting. However, it’s important to understand that such facility centers are the best for your parent when no one else is around.
Dementia care is quite challenging. Patience, self-care, flexibility, and support of your loved ones and family can help you to overcome challenges and properly take care of your parent.