Updated: Sep 20, 2018
Finding the right way to help a parent with Alzheimers or Dementia can be heart wrenching, time demanding, and confusing. There is not one right way for each person, but there are some tips that can help you along the path to a healthier parent and peace of mind for you!
Those with Alzheimers or Dementia may have a hard time learning new things or handling constant change. Developing a schedule that works best for your loved one can help ease them through each day. It will lower their stress and anxiety, and will lower yours too! As seniors age, they can become forgetful, and unsure of what is going to happen next in their day. Establishing a schedule can help them to depend on what is coming next and not be concerned with a change in their schedule.
When establishing this routine, spend time with your loved one. Talk to them about their schedule and what they like to do, and when they like to do it. Perhaps they are hungry right when they wake up, but have to wait hours for breakfast. Maybe they like to read the newspaper while eating. Depending on another person can be difficult and frustrating! Make sure you work with your family member rather than create a schedule for them.
Don't forget to be flexible! Overscheduling with a rigid schedule can overwhelm your parent. Keep the every day tasks the same, but allow time for walks, resting, or maybe a game of checkers!
Include MEDICATIONS in the schedule. You may even provide a check off box that you can see when you return.
Write it out and post it somewhere visible! Chances are, you may not be the one taking care of your parent every moment of every day. Having the schedule posted can keep your parent on track no matter who may be there taking care of them.
2. KEEP OBJECTS IN THE SAME PLACE
This goes along with the #1 tip - routine. Having things in their place eases the mind of your parent. They know exactly which drawer the pants are in, which cupboard the cups sit, and where to find their toothbrush. Having to search for something can cause unwanted anxiety. Help keep their belongings in the same general area.
3. KEEP A SYMPTOM JOURNAL
Writing down symptoms, questions, or problems you have noticed your parent facing can be helpful to bring to a doctor's appointment for your parent. If you notice them struggling with something in particular, write down the date and describe what you observed.
Has there been an increase in memory loss? Or a decrease? Have they improved in a certain task that they struggled with before? Improvements are great for doctors to know as well. It helps them to determine if certain medications are helping or not.
Write down your questions, and don't be afraid to ask the doctor! There is no such thing as a dumb question. Knowledge is power.
4. DO TELL
Depending on the severity or stage yoru parent may be at, they may need their choices limited. Instead of asking they what they want for dinner, perhaps you can say, "Would you like chicken or lasagna for dinner?" If they are in a farther stage, you may just tell them. They may be at a point that making any decision is too hard. Or maybe they want something (logical or not) that you can not get for them. Avoid an argument or break down and TELL them what is for dinner. "Hey dad, we are having lasagna for dinner. Doesn't that sound delicious?" Perhaps you have a doctor's appointment, and know they struggle to not go. Try to TELL them, not ask. "Hey dad, put your shoes on, let's go for a drive to see your favorite flowers." Then you might just happen to end up at the doctor's office! Use your discretion, but try limiting challenges by telling them what is coming next.
5. ASK FOR HELP
Most of us are not good at this. We are strong. We are independent. Asking for help is a weakness. Wait, is it? Actually, it takes a lot of strengtha nd courage to ask for help. Realizing you cannot do it all may be the healthiest realization you will have. Instead of wearing yourself out, enlist help. Do you have siblings near? A best friend? A nurse? A facility? Or perhaps you want to be the least intrusive and hire a home care company to help take the morning shift. Or midnight shift! Be strong, and give your parent the best care they can get. Likely, to do that, you will need to enlist in some help.
6. PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK!
Taking care of an aging parent is hard work; physically, mentally, and emotionally. You are doing a good job! Don't be hard on yourself. Be patient with yourself. You are taking on a large, difficult, and stressful task. But remember, it will not last forever. The time will come when you will wish you could shove one more bite of lasagna into your dad's mouth. Enjoy the time you have with them, they are lucky to have you by their side.