Loving Your Parent Through Dementia


There are very few things that we can experience in life that is worse than watching a loved one succumb to the murkiness of memory loss. Adult children have the most daunting role of all – watching as their parent slowly loses their most precious memories and becomes a former shell of their former self, being replaced by an entirely new persona who happens to share the same physical features as their loved one.


One can never truly prepare for diseases such as dementia. This brain disorder takes a person’s memories away from them, makes it more difficult to form new memories, impedes their ability to communicate effectively, and strips them of their independence.


From the time a loved one begins showing signs of memory loss, all the way up until they suffer from full-blown dementia, it is your responsibility to relearn how to communicate with them, adjusting your approach from your tone of voice to how you plan your visits. Learning how to approach and react to your loved one is not an instinctual reaction but, instead, requires commitment and practice.


Individuals who suffer from dementia most commonly experience drastic changes in emotion like sadness, anger, paranoia, and confusion, which leads to behavioral changes that cause them to be aggressive and, sometimes, even violent.


How To Care For Your Loved One With Dementia

What you may think would be the right approach is often the opposite. These mental and behavioral changes that happen are unpredictable. Here are some practical approaches for learning how to care for your loved one again:


Do not force your loved one to accept reality.

When someone experiences memory loss, they frequently forget all of the events, both trivial and significant, that have happened in their life. Do not try to force them to accept their reality by making them relive their past memories, thinking that you are doing them a favor. For example, if your parent brings up the name of someone who has passed who they think is still alive, don’t expend your energy making them accept that person is gone. Instead, ask them to talk about that individual and distract them from their train of thought. The next day, they might not even remember having that conversation with you.


You don’t have to be unapologetically honest.

Don’t feel that you need to always be honest with your loved one. There is no harm in letting them think certain things today that they may not remember tomorrow.


Be in communication with your parent’s doctor.

Your loved one will routinely be seen by a physician, but there is only so much a doctor can learn about their current state during an examination. It is important that you are present so that you can provide information that you’ve observed over time. This information can aid in their treatment.


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