5 Key Ways to Help Your Aging Parent Facing Dementia

June 13, 2018

View of extended family dining at outdoor table

It’s hard to cope with a parent’s declining mental state, and a dementia diagnosis can be outright devastating to a family. In many cases, adult children assume caretaking responsibilities when this this time comes.

Understanding and helping a parent navigate a neurological issue is no small task, and this challenge is usually uncharted waters for many people. Being expected to care for a parent can be a sudden and jarring role reversal.

But, there’s hope. Here are a few ways to ensure you and your parent maintain a high quality of life — at a reasonable cost — when contending with dementia.

Estate planning

This could be both the most uncomfortable and most important task you will undertake when faced with parental dementia. It’s important to establish a legal estate plan while your parent is able to understand and sign paperwork. That’s why you should work with your parent and legal representative to update Durable Power of Attorney, Living Will, and Trust paperwork at the onset of memory decline.

Be a parent to your parent

As dementia symptoms worsen, you will be expected to take on more responsibility caring for your parent. It may take some time to adjust to these new duties, but that’s the reality of many adult children in this situation. Now is the time to contribute to appointment scheduling, meal preparation, and other day-to-day tasks.

Consider their feelings

It might sound simple, but practicing compassion is a crucial, yet often overlooked, element of caring for a parent facing memory decline. Wrapped up in the interpersonal stresses caused by dementia, it can be easy to forget the impact this diagnosis may have on your parent.

Get help if you need it

"As dementia symptoms worsen, you will be expected to take on more responsibility caring for your parent. It may take some time to adjust to these new duties, but that’s the reality of many adult children in this situation."

For many people, the option of a retirement or assisted living residence is out of the question due to cost or other limiting factors. In other cases, soliciting professional help or removing aging parents from a familiar environment may be seen as a less than ideal solution. However, in some cases, it is the best option available. In light of insurmountable obstacles, such as reduced mobility or violent behavior, it might be time to enlist the help of professionals. Given certain — potentially life-threatening — circumstances, a senior living community could make the most sense for you and your parent.

Dental care

As dementia progresses, people are more likely to lapse on personal hygiene and skip routine self-care habits. For example, in mid- to late-stage dementia, people might forget to brush and floss their teeth. Forgetting dental care on occasion will not have detrimental effects, however this behavior over time can have consequences in terms of both health and cost. For example, neglecting oral care can necessitate tooth extraction or gum surgery. These are the last types of things you will want your parent to go through when their health is already in a steady decline.

Advocate for daily dental care. For example, you might need to use  simple cues, instruct them through demonstration, or brush for them.

The responsibility of scheduling dentist visits may also be on your shoulders. Now, more than ever, professional check ups and cleanings must become commonplace for your loved one. It’s possible these appointments will go neglected without your oversight, so keep your parent accountable for their dental health. Professional dental care is proven to reduce the risk of serious dental issues. You can mitigate the cost of increased dental costs for your parent with the help of a dental discount program.

Here’s what this all amounts to: don’t give up hope. The road ahead won’t be easy, but if you take the right precautions you can help your parent continue to live the most happy and fulfilled life possible in the face of dementia.

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