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How To Deal With Dementia In A Parent: Caregiving & Coping Tips For Adult Children

How to Deal with Dementia in a Parent: Caregiving & Coping Tips for Adult Children

The relationship between a parent and child is important and unique. It’s not uncommon for children to view their parents as caregivers and protectors, even well into adulthood.

For some adults, parental figures remain a guiding light and constant support throughout life changes and significant milestones. They’re the go-to people in life when questions and concerns arise or advice is needed. 

What happens when a parent is diagnosed with dementia? Typically, a complete role reversal is required.

Learning How to Deal With Dementia in a Parent

No matter what a parent and child relationship is like, your parent’s dementia diagnosis can be overwhelming on both sides of the equation. Patients experiencing the symptoms of dementia face profound moments of confusion. For adult children, learning how to deal with dementia in a parent can be a complicated process.

Dementia brings about a moment of transition for both parents and their adult children. The experience of moving from the role of child to your parent’s caregiver is never easy.

That said, knowing what to expect when learning how to deal with dementia in a parent can make a huge difference. While dementia is a disease for which there is no known cure, there is a treatment plan. You can take the time to learn what behavioral changes to anticipate and have some coping strategies readily available to make this season of life a little less stressful for everyone involved.

Behaviors to Expect as Dementia Progresses

Dementia is a progressive brain disease without a known cure. While children learning how to deal with dementia in a parent often anticipate memory loss, many are taken by surprise when other symptoms come into play.

As the disease creates structural abnormalities in brain tissue, the results are often significant and can seem severe. It’s common to notice progressive changes in personality, mood, language skills, attention span, and problem-solving abilities over time.

For adult children learning how to deal with dementia in a parent, these personality changes and mood swings can initially seem scary. Many feel their parent has been replaced by a totally different person.

Moving Past Personal Pain

Anticipating these personality changes is vital for adult children who become caregivers. Expecting them can lessen the distress of seeing a parent with dementia become someone else on many levels.

Above all, it’s important to remember that mood swings, anger, and frustration directed at caregiving adult children are not personal attacks. These behaviors are the direct result of brain disease. While seeing and hearing them can be challenging, it’s beneficial for those learning how to deal with dementia in a parent to understand that they are inevitable and not personal.

Once you recognize that these changes can’t be controlled and aren’t aimed at you personally, you can begin to work with your parent with dementia to ease the struggle.

Instead of fighting against outlandish requests, try finding ways to help your parents feel more comfortable by making small concessions. If a parent demands time outdoors, consider moving the kitchen table closer to a window to create a sense of freedom within safe parameters.

Those who have dementia are often clear about what they want, even if they no longer have the means to express it concisely. For example, a parent with dementia who goes around the house disorganizing closets or cabinets may be trying to express their need for engagement or productivity.

As a caregiver, focusing on changes you can make in your parent’s environment is more empowering than concentrating on what you can’t change about your parent’s condition. Keep in mind that solutions that work today may stop working tomorrow. Dementia is progressive and requires patience and creativity every step of the way.

Did you know: Our caregivers provide clients with a familiar face, and are fully trained to provide dementia and Alzheimer’s care.

Coping Tips for Caregiving and Alleviating Stress

While behavioral changes are always challenging for adult children caring for a parent with dementia, some general communication tips can help you cope in this new environment daily. Implementing these communication strategies can create a more positive experience overall.

Start by paying particular attention to your tone of voice and facial expressions. While dementia takes away memory, it doesn’t take away emotions. Setting a positive atmosphere through body language and voice goes a long way towards putting those with dementia at ease.

It’s also important to simplify what it is you want to convey. Dementia innately makes it harder for someone suffering from the condition to focus. Making your message clear, concise, and direct is always helpful. If you have something important to say to a parent with dementia, be sure to remove all surrounding distractions before you deliver the message to avoid frustration.

Everyone could use a little reassurance from time to time, and it’s no exception for those who have dementia. Consistently let your parent know that they are safe and loved. This type of messaging also works to put you at ease when things get complicated.

Finally, be sure to find time to laugh. A sense of humor is empowering for both you and your parent with dementia. Humor lightens the mood and can help everyone focus on relationships instead of frustrations for a while.

Dementia doesn’t go away, but having these communication strategies in place can make the day-to-day experience of managing the disease less stressful. When it comes to dementia, taking a step-by-step approach will always be key to even small wins.

If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation.  Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.

Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia CareBed & Wheelchair Transfer AssistanceCompanionshipHousekeeping & Meal PreparationPersonal CareRecovery Care, and Transportation.

Serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater San Diego, Family Matter In-Home Care has offices throughout California including: Campbell, CARoseville, CASan Marcos, CA, and San Mateo, CA.

Carol Pardue-Spears

Carol has worked in the healthcare field for more than forty years. As a Certified Nursing Assistant, she worked for El Camino Hospital in the cardiac unit, Los Gatos Community Hospital, The Women’s Cancer Center in Los Gatos and several home health and hospice agencies. Carol founded Family Matters in 2002 to fill a deficit she witnessed in high-quality, in-home services and care.

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