Adventures with Dementia: Strategies for Families and Caregivers
On a day many parents worry about, our chapter decided to share with you a wide variety of tips we’ve gleaned from our casework so far. The suggestions in this article seek to provide parents and caregivers with practical information that can be used to improve the quality of life of our most vulnerable people.
The following tips each show the impact dementia and Alzheimer’s have on your life, from stories of memory loss to life-changing medical advice from our experts.
1. Awareness is everything. People with Alzheimer’s have some of the most unique needs and behaviors that can be confusing to those around them.
A friend recently told me her 10-year-old son was “a different kid” since he started at an assisted living facility for children with dementia. Her son is able to communicate well and even share humor, but his episodes of language loss, inability to remember his name, or refusing to participate are alarmingly serious for someone of such an energetic child.
“I used to see him play basketball, read Harry Potter books, and ride his bike around the block. Now, I can’t remember much about that kid,” she said.
Our family will be looking into our own resources to help better identify dementia in other family members. Here’s a list of resources we found in previous articles.
Even the most casual “care” can help us become more aware of our loved ones’ different needs and behaviors, such as how just sharing a bottle of iced tea or a sweet to a child who often likes sweets can be enough to get them to interact. Having extra toys for children with dementia can also ease the burden and make them feel more comfortable talking about their disorders.
2. Weakened relationships come as a result of dementia and may affect even the healthiest spouse.
A close friend’s husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease last fall. The couple just moved to an assisted living center. Though he’s the primary caretaker for their children, especially their 6-year-old son, his memory loss has made it difficult for him to make decisions or handle financial matters.
This mother explains that sometimes her husband tries to make decisions or handle important tasks on his own, and she’s left to ask, “Why?” As a result, the couple’s relationship has been strained and sometimes even broken up.
When spouses know the nature of the illness and the impact on the marriage, a family can make a conscious decision to continue to stay together, even in the face of loss.
3. Our most vulnerable friends, family members, and health care providers need to be educated to recognize the signs and symptoms of dementia.
While it’s easy to want to jump in and help a family member or friend, it’s important to step back and remind yourself:
(I) So a parent can’t remember their name and for what reason?
(II) Do they know the meaning of “red”?
(III) Do they seem confused about money?
(IV) Is someone visiting them saying things to them that would cause them to lose memory?
(V) Have they confused their own words with somebody else’s?
(VI) Has something bothered them deeply enough to change their behavior and change their personality?
(VII) Is there a logical explanation for what is going on?
4. Many people are unaware that they can be part of their family’s care team.
From speech therapy and medication management to even personal activities such as cooking meals, we encourage families to approach the caregiver of a loved one who may be struggling to find their place as a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
These tips will provide you with some ideas about how to create your own “home” for your loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Excerpted from the MindShift Project: From Memory Loss to Healing, published by Lifenews International, the first international peer-reviewed, long-term care social sciences and psychology publication, and available on lnysource.org