Jun 2, 2023

How to help elderly parents with dementia or Alzheimer’s

Manny Cominsky

Watching our beloved parents and grandparents navigate the challenging journey of Alzheimer's or dementia can be an emotional and overwhelming experience. As their memory fades and their cognitive abilities decline, it becomes crucial for us to step forward with compassion, understanding, and the knowledge needed to offer the best possible support. By combining empathy and informed caregiving, we can create a nurturing environment that promotes their well-being, preserves their dignity, and fosters meaningful connections during this difficult but profoundly significant phase of their lives. In this helpful guide, we will explore practical strategies, heartfelt advice, and essential tips to help you navigate the complexities of caring for elderly parents with Alzheimer's or dementia.

Tips for assisting your elderly parents with memory loss

Caring for an elderly parent with dementia or Alzheimer's can be challenging, but there are several ways that can help you provide the support and assistance they need short of turning to professional medical assistance (which we cover in more detail further below).

Educate yourself: Take the time to learn about the specific type of dementia or Alzheimer's your elderly parent has been diagnosed with. Educate yourself about the typical symptoms, progression, and potential challenges associated with their condition. Understand the available treatment options, medications, and therapies that can help manage symptoms and improve their quality of life. Additionally, familiarize yourself with local resources such as support groups, specialized care centers, and organizations that provide assistance and information to caregivers of individuals with dementia.

Maintain a routine: Establishing and sticking to a daily routine can be immensely beneficial for someone with dementia. Consistency and predictability help create a sense of structure and security, reducing confusion and anxiety. Develop a schedule for activities such as waking up, meals, personal care, exercise, and leisure time. Keep the routine as simple as possible, using visual cues like calendars or clocks to reinforce the sequence of events. While flexibility is important, strive to maintain a general structure to provide a familiar framework for your parent's day.

Create a safe environment: A safe living environment is essential to prevent accidents and injuries. Conduct a thorough assessment of your parent's home, looking for potential hazards. Remove or secure loose rugs, electrical cords, and other tripping hazards. Install handrails in hallways or staircases to provide stability and support. Consider using locks or alarms on doors and windows if wandering becomes a concern. Adequate lighting is crucial, especially at night, to minimize disorientation and confusion. Creating a safe space will promote your parent's independence and reduce the risk of accidents.

Simplify communication: Communicating with someone who has dementia requires patience and understanding. Use clear, simple language and speak slowly, allowing time for comprehension. Break down instructions or questions into smaller, manageable chunks. Maintain eye contact and use nonverbal cues, such as gestures and facial expressions, to enhance understanding. Be attentive and receptive to their nonverbal cues and emotions, as they may rely more on these than verbal communication. Adjust your own tone and body language to convey warmth, reassurance, and empathy.

Be patient and flexible: As dementia progresses, your parent's abilities and behavior may change. Patience is key in navigating these changes. Understand that they may experience memory loss, confusion, and difficulty expressing themselves. Adapt your expectations and approach accordingly. Allow more time for tasks and conversations, and break them down into simpler steps. Be flexible and open to adjusting plans or activities based on their comfort and capabilities. Celebrate small achievements and focus on creating a positive and supportive environment.

Assist with daily activities: Your parent may require assistance with various daily activities. Approach these tasks with sensitivity and respect for their dignity. Help them maintain their independence by involving them in the process as much as possible. Break down tasks into smaller steps, providing clear and simple instructions. Use visual cues or prompts, such as written reminders or labeled drawers, to aid their understanding. Give gentle reminders when necessary and be patient throughout the process. Recognize the importance of balancing their autonomy with their safety and well-being.

Encourage social interaction: Social engagement is crucial for your parent's emotional well-being and cognitive stimulation. Encourage regular interactions with family members, friends, and other supportive individuals. Plan visits or outings that are manageable and enjoyable for them. Consider engaging them in activities specifically designed for individuals with dementia, such as support groups, memory cafes, or arts and crafts programs. These interactions provide opportunities for socialization, reminiscing, and emotional connection, which can help alleviate feelings of isolation and improve their overall mood.

Provide meaningful activities: Engaging your parent in meaningful activities can promote a sense of purpose, independence, and enjoyment. Consider their interests, abilities, and past hobbies when selecting activities. This might include listening to their favorite music, reading aloud, doing puzzles, engaging in gentle exercises like walking or stretching, gardening, or simple crafts. Modify activities as needed to match their current abilities, and be patient and encouraging throughout the process. These activities offer mental stimulation, contribute to their overall well-being, and provide opportunities for positive interactions and shared experiences.

Remember, caregiving for someone with dementia or Alzheimer's can be a complex and emotionally challenging journey. Seek support from healthcare professionals, support groups, and other caregivers to help you navigate this process effectively.

Consider professional assistance 

While the above strategies can be incredibly powerful for helping a senior or elderly parent who is in the beginning stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s, at a certain point your parent’s mental condition will probably require you to seek professional, medical assistance. Generally, this care can take place either in your parent’s home, at an adult day care, or at a dedicated memory care facility. 

In-home dementia care

In-home caregivers play a crucial role in providing assistance and support to elderly parents with dementia. These caregivers can offer personalized care that promotes safety, well-being, and a higher quality of life. They can assist with daily activities such as personal hygiene, meal preparation, medication management, and mobility support. In-home caregivers can also engage the individual with dementia in mentally stimulating activities tailored to their abilities and interests, promoting cognitive function and emotional well-being. They provide companionship, offering social interaction and reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation. Additionally, caregivers can monitor changes in behavior or health and communicate these observations to healthcare professionals and family members. By providing dedicated and compassionate care, in-home caregivers enable elderly parents with dementia to age in place while maintaining their independence and dignity.

Adult day care

Adult day care programs offer valuable support for elderly parents with dementia by providing a structured and supervised environment during the day. These programs offer a range of services tailored to the specific needs of individuals with dementia. Participants can engage in social activities, cognitive stimulation exercises, and therapeutic interventions under the guidance of trained professionals. The structured routines and engaging programs help maintain cognitive abilities, reduce agitation and anxiety, and enhance overall well-being. Adult day care also provides respite for family caregivers, allowing them time to rest, work, or attend to their own needs with peace of mind. Moreover, these programs offer a supportive community where participants can interact with peers facing similar challenges, fostering a sense of belonging and reducing social isolation. Adult day care serves as a valuable resource for both elderly parents with dementia and their caregivers, enhancing their quality of life and providing a safe and stimulating environment during daytime hours.

Memory care facility

Memory care facilities are specifically designed to meet the unique needs of elderly parents with dementia. These facilities provide a secure and supportive environment where individuals receive specialized care from trained professionals who understand the challenges associated with dementia. Memory care facilities offer a structured daily routine that includes activities tailored to the cognitive abilities and interests of residents. The staff provides assistance with activities of daily living, medication management, and personal care while prioritizing safety and comfort. The physical layout of these facilities is designed to minimize confusion and disorientation, with features like clear signage, color-coded corridors, and memory aids. Memory care facilities also provide a sense of community and socialization through group activities, memory-enhancing exercises, and opportunities for interaction with fellow residents. By offering a comprehensive range of services and a supportive environment, memory care facilities help elderly parents with dementia maintain their dignity, maximize their independence, and receive the specialized care they require.

To learn more about how Sunbound can help make senior living more affordable for you or your loved one, send us an email at info@sunboundhomes.com or request more information on Sunbound. Sunbound is the best way to pay for senior living and is on a mission to make senior living affordable for everyone.

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