How do I care for elderly parents with dementia?
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to caring for elderly parents with dementia.
Everyone experiences the condition differently, and you’ll need to learn what works best for you. Even so, there are a few rules of thumb when it comes to caring for someone with dementia at home:
Do your research into what you can expect from the condition
Talk to your loved one about what they’re going through
Give their home a dementia-friendly renovation
It can also help to ask for professional help. That’s where live-in care – one-on-one support in the comfort of your loved one’s own home – comes in. If it all starts to get a little too much, let us know and we can have someone with you in as little as 24 hours.
What is dementia?
Dementia is a disorder of the brain which comprises a variety of symptoms, including:
Impaired language skills
Loss of hand-eye coordination
Disorientation of time and place
Elderly parents with dementia may only have a couple of these symptoms, and they may pick up more of them as time goes by. This all depends on which part of the brain is damaged, as well as the disease or injury that causes it.
Dementia, it’s worth remembering, is a catch-all term used to describe these symptoms, but it isn’t the cause of them. The cause is usually brain disease – such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s – or cognitive damage from a stroke or head injury. So while forgetfulness may come with old age, dementia is a something altogether different.
These symptoms can make everyday trickier to navigate, but there are lots of people who live well with dementia years after being diagnosed – especially when they receive the right care. So let’s take a closer look now at how to deal with dementia in a parent.
Do your research
The more you know about dementia, the better prepared you’ll be for what’s ahead.
It’s worth looking into the symptoms associated with your elderly parent’s illness or injury. You’ll often find there are varying levels of severity, from the more manageable – forgetfulness and confusion – to the more prohibitive – obsessive-compulsive behaviours and paranoia. It’s never nice to see what might be to come, but you’ll be able to adapt better if you’re clued up.
If you plan on caring for someone with dementia at home, you should also explore what kind of support you’re eligible for. To find out, just ask your GP for a care assessment. It’s free, and it’ll give them an idea about your circumstances and whether you need any additional care support.
They might also put you in touch with local support groups. These are a great way to learn more about how other people are coping. There’s also plenty of these sorts of resources online, both for elderly parents with dementia and for you. You can find them all – including the Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK and the Carers UK forum – with a quick Google.
Reach out for help
Dementia elderly care is a big job, but share the load and you’ll be able to focus on the relationship at the heart of it all.
Live-in care is a good way to do just that. A carer moves into a spare room in your loved one’s home and gives them one-on-one, 24-hour support. That means someone is there for your elderly parents with dementia, night and day, to offer a hand whenever it’s needed.
Live-in carers are qualified to look after low- to mid-level dementia needs, and they’re happy to take the reins on medication or cognitive exercises. They can deal with everyday tasks, too, from shopping to personal care, and tailor the meals they prepare to your loved one’s preferences and a doctor’s recommendations.
In short, your loved one can stay put, surrounded by their belongings and memories, and you can sleep easy there’s a professional on hand to offer dementia care at home.
Keep the conversation going
When elderly parents with dementia struggle to communicate, communication becomes more important than ever.
You need to make sure you let each other know how you’re feeling, or it’ll only to lead to misunderstandings. And with that comes the potential for disagreements, friction and, in the longer term, a strained relationship. So take the time every now and then to put the kettle on and talk things through.
Choose a time when you know you’ll have your elderly parent’s full attention – not, for example, when their favourite show is about to start. Try to keep things as straightforward as possible, since you don’t want to get crossed wires, and be sure to paint your discussion in a positive light. This isn’t, after all, about what might go wrong – it’s about making the best of the future.
Remember, dementia is not only a frustrating experience, it can also affect parts of the brain that moderate temperament. And if you’re caring for someone with dementia at home, you’re likely to bear the brunt of this. But your loved one may just be struggling to express themselves, or not realise their behaviour is problematic at all. One conversation can help clear that all up.
It's not just care it's also peace of mind
“It is reassuring to know that my father is being cared for by someone who understands his needs and his dementia symptoms.”
Dementia-proof their home
In an ideal world, elderly parents with dementia will be able to stay the home they know and love. You just might need to make a renovation or two.
Here are a few of our suggestions:
Improve accessibility with a stair lift, lower kitchen units and bathroom rails
Reduce excess noise with excluders on doors and carpeted (rather than vinyl) floors
Improve lighting by cutting back hedges and adding automatic light sensors
Introduce more colour to distinguish walls from floors, toilet seats from tiles and so on
Cover reflective surfaces so there’s no confusion about the space they’re in
Label drawers and cupboards to make things easy to find
Buy dementia-friendly items from digital clocks to big-buttoned phones
Just remember, those with dementia can find it hard to adapt to new surroundings, so make changes bit by bit – and only with your loved one’s knowledge.
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