If your mom or dad has been diagnosed with dementia or cognitive impairment, it’s important to approach their care with an open mind. Remember that their disease is not who they are, and adjusting your approach to their needs will help you both navigate this time of transition.
Learn About Dementia and Memory Loss
There are three phases of dementia:
Early stage dementia: During the early stages of dementia, your mom will likely be able to conduct most of her daily tasks without assistance. She can bathe, dress, feed herself and drive as usual but might need help taking her medication or remembering names and appointments.
Middle stage dementia: Your dad will suffer more memory loss and confusion as his condition progresses. It’s common to experience a loss of identity and independence during the middle stage of dementia. He may forget to eat, begin to lose track of time and struggle with insomnia.
Late stage dementia: The final stage of dementia can last for weeks or years. Your mom may have mobility issues, trouble eating and swallowing, and increased fatigue. Around this time is when you should consider in-home assistance or a dementia care community to ensure she gets the care she needs.
Regardless of the stage of cognitive decline, your parent’s safety should be your first priority.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Reduce fall risks by removing rugs, cords and furniture from high-traffic walkways.
- Keep the living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom well-lit.
- Install grab bars or railings in the bathroom and hallways to support your mom’s balance.
- Add a bidet to your mom’s toilet to ease her self-care.
- Create a contact list of family, friends and local emergency services, and post it in a visible location.
- Talk with your mom’s neighbors about keeping an eye on her if you’re unable to visit.
- You may also consider installing security cameras and door ajar alerts to keep on an eye on your mom when you’re away or at night.
Maximize Their Independence
Depending on your dad’s condition, he may be able to complete daily tasks and maintain his independence, so discuss his needs with him before jumping in to assist. Be mindful of his strengths and offer help with activities that cause frustration or confusion.
Your dad may struggle with:
- Bathing and grooming
- Cooking and eating
- Paying bills and managing his finances
- Taking his medication
- Driving and navigating
Encourage your dad to live a healthy and active lifestyle to support his motor skills and cognitive function. That may include prepping and cooking meals together, completing chores around the house or socially engaging with others.
Plan for the Future Together
Take advantage of the opportunity to get your mom’s insight and preferences on her legal, financial and long-term care needs. Assign power of attorney after your mom’s diagnosis to help her make health and financial decisions when the time comes.
Gather personal documents, such as:
- Driver’s license
- Social security card
- Bank account numbers and balances
- Investment information
- Insurance policies
- Car title
- Property deed
- Medical information
Having those documents will make it easier to find important information and make decisions when your mom can no longer do so. Ask her about establishing or updating a living will to address her future care requirements.
Take Care of Yourself, Too
It’s normal to feel stress, anxiety, fear, sadness, anger and frustration as you learn to cope with your loved one’s diagnosis. It’s important to pay attention to your emotional health, too, and reach out to others when you need help. You don’t have to go through this journey alone. Build a network of family and friends to help you navigate your dad’s changing needs.
Know when it’s time to seek assistance. Kemper House Worthington offers support services to those with loved ones who have dementia and Alzheimer’s. Call 614-896-8700 or contact us online for more information.