If your parent is a victim of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you must know your options. Options vary with each situation, and are often based on income, assets, care needs, insurance, history of military service, and several other important factors. Long-term care is very expensive, and dealing with a parent with dementia is emotionally draining. One of the most challenging things an adult child can experience is caring for parents with dementia.
Eight common behaviors of dementia:
Every person’s dementia is unique, but there are many common behaviors associated with the condition. You need to be aware of these behaviors and have a plan. Here are some behaviors you may be dealing with:
Paranoia: It hurts when your aging parent accuses you of stealing. It is upsetting when your parent is convinced the FBI has surveillance “bugs” throughout the house. Paranoia is common, and the caregiving family member should not argue, try to be comforting, and do not take it personally. Bring these behaviors to the attention of your parent’s doctor
Adequate nutrition and hydration: Dementia can cause a person to forget that she needs to eat or drink. Weight loss, malnutrition and dehydration can result. It can help to have meals at consistent times every day. Finger foods and sippy cups can make it easier for your parent to self-feed and drink. Having a meal with your parent can encourage them to eat.
Wandering: Another common behavior is wandering – which can quickly become a tradgedy. Regular physical activity can reduce your parent’s compulsion to walk alone. Install a home security or monitoring system, child locks, and use tracking devices in a watch, bracelet, belt or shoes.
Agitation: Keeping your parent’s life as structured and predictable as possible, will minimize his or her anxiety. Feeling that adult children are “taking over” and that the parent is “loosing control” often creates agitation in a damaged brain. Do not argue, lecture, or get angry. The parent should have as much independence as safety will allow.
Sleeplessness/Sundowning: Dementia can wreak havoc on a person’s “body clock,” making him more active at night than during the day. Regular physical exercise, fresh air, and avoiding daytime naps can assist. Keep sugar and caffeine out of his or her evening meals. Establish a regular, calming evening and bedtime routine. However, sundowning can be serious, and very difficult to handle. Bring this issue to the treating physician’s attention.
Incontinence: You may need to post images that help your parent find the bathroom. Regular bathroom visits can help with this issue. Clothing should be provided with elastic waistbands or Velcro fasteners. Have him or her wear incontinence pads or disposable underwear. Most falls resulting in broken hips and other injuries occur at night, when the parent gets up to use the restroom.
Perseveration (repetitive speech or actions): If your parent repeats words or actions many times, he may be perseverating. Telling him to stop is pointless, and can cause agitation with him or her. Divert attention with an enjoyable activity.
Bathing: As her dementia progresses, your parent may forget how to bathe, or refuse to bathe. Provide the supports needed, while respecting privacy. Do not leave him or her unattended in the bath or shower. Safeguard modesty. Make sure the bathing experience is pleasant by using aromatherapy and warm soft towels. Most importantly, ensure the parent doesn’t get cold, or feel insecure.
If your parent suffers from Alzheimer disease or dementia, they will not get better. A plan should be developed, so the parent can get the needed care utilizing all resources and benefits available. Every state has different laws, so be sure to talk with a local elder law attorney to get advice on how to protect and care for your aging parents.
Family Caregiver Alliance. “Caregiver’s Guide to Understanding Dementia Behaviors.” (accessed August 8, 2017) https://www.caregiver.org/caregivers-guide-understanding-dementia-behaviors
A Place for Mom. “Dementia Care Dos & Don’ts: Dealing with Dementia Behavior Problems.” (accessed August 8, 2017) http://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/2013-02-08-dealing-with-dementia-behavior/
AARP. “Caring for a Parent With Dementia.” (accessed August 8, 2017) http://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/info-09-2012/caring-for-a-parent-with-dementia.html