It is not easy to deal with a parent with dementia or its most common type, Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 10 million American adults have to cope with the responsibility of caring for a family member suffering from various types of dementia.
Family caregiver tasks
When a parent has dementia, the family caregiver often has to help out with ordinary household tasks, provide personal care, and perform other services. It can be the equivalent of a full-time job. Indeed, the Alzheimer’s Association says about 25% of family caregivers devote about 40 hours a week in service of the parent or loved one.
The family caregiver may often be forced to intervene in the personal life of the parent. As symptoms of impairment from dementia worsen, the caregiver may have to make decisions on behalf of the parent. For instance, driving a car may no longer be safe, and the family caregiver may have to take away the car keys despite possible objections from the parent.
Caring for a parent with dementia can be a daunting challenge. Very often, a family member decides to provide the care him- or herself. As the condition worsens, the parent will require progressively more assistance. The toll on the family caregiver’s physical and mental health can be stiff, and there may be adverse consequences on work, finances and his/her own family life.
The American Geriatrics Society says that caregivers should include provisions for getting relief in their program of care. Unless the family caregiver gets enough relief and support, he or she runs a higher risk of illness, anxiety and depression.
Things to do to deal with a parent with dementia
There are three basic things to consider in dealing with a parent with dementia.
- Learn as much as possible about the condition. Nothing experienced in adult life prepares a person to care for a parent or loved one with dementia. The person looks exactly the same, making it difficult to imagine that the brain is progressively deteriorating and the mental faculties are changing. However, because the condition lasts for years, there is enough time for the family to develop knowledge of what to expect. With more knowledge, the family caregiver can improve the quality of care for the parent and reduce the personal stress associated with caring for a parent with dementia.
- Get as much help as possible. There is one thing the family caregiver must realize: It is not possible to do it alone. One needs help from all sources — from family members and other relatives, friends, doctors and other experts, and paid caregivers. The stress from dealing with a parent with dementia is considerably more than one can imagine, and studies show it can affect personal health.
- Make certain paid caregivers have dementia training. Whether hiring people to provide personal care for a parent at home or moving the parent to a facility, it is important for such people to be suitably trained. The parent with dementia can be expected to exhibit the most difficult behavior. The paid caregiver needs to have a depth of understanding that comes with good training to be able to provide proper care. The techniques for dealing with dementia do not come naturally; they need to be learned.