Being the adult child of an aging parent is not easy. Besides the ever-present reminder of the changing family dynamics, you have to worry about him developing a physical or mental condition that might make it impossible for you to deal with in the family home. Dementia is just one mental disorder that can wreak havoc on your family, but it is one of the most devastating. Over 5.7 million seniors in the United States have been diagnosed with dementia, most in the form of Alzheimer’s, an as-of-yet incurable condition that attacks the very memories that make life worth living. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, killing more than prostate cancer and breast cancer combined.
What is Dementia?
According to research from Alzheimer’s Disease International, a new case of dementia is diagnosed every three seconds worldwide. This leaves millions of citizens around the world fighting an illness that is as-of-yet not totally understood. What do scientists know about dementia?
- Dementia is a brain disorder that affects thinking, behavior, emotion, and memory
- Alzheimer’s disease is only one of a number of causes of dementia; others include frontotemporal dementia and that caused from vascular disease
- Dementia is still stigmatized as a disease that renders those afflicted with the inability to function as full members of society; this is clearly incorrect
- While scientists have developed some treatments for the disease, there is currently no cure for dementia
- Symptoms of dementia vary based on the cause of the disorder; there are seven stages of the disease
- Dementia is not a death sentence or a discontinuation of a productive life. Many people with dementia live a normal life filled with friends, family, hobbies and other pursuits.
How To Care for My Loved One With Dementia
No one will debate the fact that caring for a person with dementia can be a challenge. Some things to remember if you are responsible for taking care of a loved one with dementia:
- You will have to step it up a notch when it comes to patience. Many people with dementia get confused easily, and often you will have to repeat yourself or help him perform even the most basic tasks. Losing your patience will only add to the stress level within the home.
- Remember that there will be good days and bad days. Enjoy the good but be prepared for the worst. As a progressive disease, you will have to come to terms with the loss of function and cognitive awareness that comes with it. Accept that you’ll have to become more involved in your loved one’s care as the condition progresses and plan for a time when you might have to share responsibility with other family members of considering placing them in a specialized facility.
- Be an advocate for your loved one. As they worsen, you may have to give up some of the control over their care, but never stop fighting to ensure they have the highest quality of life possible. Learn about dementia and provide your loved ones the opportunity to be a part of your life.
When It’s Time To Look Into Care Facilities
It is almost an inevitability that your loved one will eventually need more care than you can physically and emotionally provide. When this time comes, your priority shifts to finding a place for your parents that will advocate for them when you’re not there. There are many wonderful facilities that specialize in caring for dementia patients; you can find these places online or call your local Department on Aging for recommendations. Always check a center out for yourself, talk to the administrator and tour the facility. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to voice your concerns if you see something you are uneasy about.