When a parent starts showing signs of dementia, you may not know what to do—most people don’t. That’s okay; no one expects you to be an expert caregiver. So, if you’re an adult child looking for advice on how to deal with a loved one with dementia, keep reading.
This blog covers everything you need to know about caring for an aging adult with dementia. Here’s what you’ll learn:
- Signs and symptoms of dementia
- How to handle dementia confusion
- How to respond to a person with dementia
- Where to get help dealing with a family member with dementia
By the end of this blog, you’ll know how to best care for your aging parent with dementia and where to find professional help.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Dementia?
Dementia is not a disease but rather an umbrella term for a range of medical conditions impairing a person’s cognitive abilities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for up to 80% of cases. Those living with any form of dementia struggle to remember, think, or make decisions.
The signs and symptoms of dementia will vary from person to person, but some include:
- Memory loss and confusion (e.g., forgetting family members)
- Difficulty communicating or concentrating
- Becoming withdrawn or anxious
- Wandering or getting lost
- Repeating themselves
- Mood swings
Eventually, these symptoms will interfere with daily life to a point where dementia patients can no longer care for themselves. Confusion and memory loss in the elderly are two of the most common dementia symptoms. In this next section, we explain how to handle dementia confusion in elderly loved ones.
How to Help Confused Elderly Adults With Dementia
The progressive damage to brain cells in Alzheimer’s patients leads to memory loss and confusion. Certain situations, such as a change in environment, can cause these symptoms to worsen. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind if you’re wondering how to deal with Alzheimer’s confusion.
- Get their attention. Speak simply, not loudly, while making direct eye contact. Physical touch, such as putting your hand on top of theirs, may also help.
- Reorient them. Respond with a brief explanation, doing your best to clarify what they’re confused about.
- Provide reassurance. Make sure they know (1) that they’re safe and (2) that you’re there to help.
- Give them a task. Redirect their attention to a game, chore, or other activity.
- Meet them where they’re at. If their mind is fixated on a particular time of life or memory, engage them in conversation, understanding that this is their current reality.
As the disease progresses, more patience is necessary on the part of caregivers. Now you have an idea of how to help with dementia confusion. Keep reading to learn more tips on how to deal with a loved one with dementia.
How to Deal With a Loved One With Dementia
Dealing with a family member with dementia is extremely taxing emotionally, mentally, and physically. Dementia can cause your elderly loved one to say things they wouldn’t normally say, awkwardly interact with neighbors, and talk to strangers in public. In addition, as their memory loss and confusion worsen, an elderly loved one with dementia may begin forgetting family members and familiar places like their own home.
When difficult situations arise, use these basic tips as your guide on how to respond to a person with dementia.
- Educate yourself. If your loved one was recently diagnosed with dementia, begin researching their specific condition. Learning about their diagnosis will help you better care for them and prepare you for its progression.
- Stay calm. The best advice we can give you is to stay calm at all times. Those with dementia may become triggered for seemingly no reason and begin acting out. As their caregiver, you must deescalate the situation while remaining composed.
- Use distractions. Develop distraction techniques to calm situations and divert your elderly loved one’s attention: play music, eat a snack, start an activity, redirect the conversation, show them a picture, hand them a well-loved object, etc.
- Don’t reprimand. Should you correct someone with dementia? Experts say no. Although it’s understandable, reprimanding dementia patients isn’t a good idea. They aren’t fully aware of their actions, and it may cause more harm than good.
- Provide choices. Try not to make all of the day’s decisions on their behalf. Instead, give your loved one options, but not too many. For example, ask them if they’d like orange juice or apple juice, pointing to each beverage as a visual queue when posing the question.
People don’t intrinsically know how to communicate with a cognitively impaired person. However, as you learn the most effective ways to reach your loved one, it will make dementia care less stressful.
Get Help Dealing With a Family Member With Dementia
As Wisconsin’s leader in geriatric care management, we work with families to develop personalized care plans that consider the physical, mental, and emotional health of their aging loved ones. Our geriatric care consultants are well-equipped to support family caregivers, helping them manage complex situations as they evolve.
In addition, we’ve partnered with TheKey to offer exceptional in-home senior care. TheKey’s caregivers are expertly trained to provide memory care at home for those living with any type of cognitive decline. They have experience managing challenging dementia behaviors with skill and compassion, so you know your loved one is in good hands.
If you’re taking care of a parent with dementia and don’t know how to handle dementia confusion, contact Stowell Associates. Our Care Team can direct you toward the best care solutions for your unique situation.