What to Do When Parent Shows Signs of Dementia: Essential Steps and Advice

What to Do When Parent Shows Signs of Dementia: Essential Steps and Advice

Dementia describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking, and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily life. It is not a specific disease. As people age, they may begin to exhibit signs of dementia, and recognizing these indicators early on, initiating discussions about their condition, and getting them the right kind of care is essential.

When your loved one starts showing signs of dementia, you need to seek professional assistance and, where possible, get them the best care. It’s an arduous process that requires proper planning and communication to make the transition smooth for you and your aging loved one. 

Key Takeaways

  • Early recognition of dementia symptoms is crucial for timely interventions and discussions.
  • Seeking professional help and guidance is crucial in managing dementia in loved ones
  • Patients with dementia require a comprehensive care plan to ensure their safety and well-being. 

Recognizing the Signs of Dementia

Dementia presents in a wide range of symptoms. Some symptoms might be hard to note at first but become more evident as the condition worsens. Knowing what to look out for can help make the condition easier to detect and make timely interventions. When you know what to look for, it’s easy to notice when dementia starts setting in. Here are some of the common signs associated with dementia. 

Memory Loss

One of the earliest signs of dementia is forgetfulness. It may also be accompanied by difficulty remembering recent events, conversations, or appointments. You will notice your loved one frequently misplacing items and asking the same questions repeatedly. Occasional memory lapses can be a sign of aging, but you should also watch for excessive forgetfulness. 

Difficulty in Communication

Dementia can make it challenging for people to find the right words during conversations. This may result in your parent struggling to explain something, often using incorrect words, or having trouble following or joining a conversation. It’s common to struggle with a conversation once in a while. But when it becomes consistent, it could be a sign that dementia is setting in. 

Difficulty with Problem-solving

People with dementia may have trouble with problem-solving or completing tasks. This can include difficulty planning events, preparing meals, or managing finances. They may struggle with tasks that once were easy for them, such as following a recipe or balancing a checkbook. If your loved one seems overwhelmed even by tasks they previously excelled in, it could be a symptom of dementia. 

Changes in Personality and Behavior

Dementia can cause changes in a person's personality and behavior. Your parent may become more irritable, anxious, or depressed. They might also exhibit mood swings, become socially withdrawn, or develop unusual habits. It's crucial to pay attention to any sudden or unexplained behavioral changes in your parent, as these could indicate the onset of dementia.

By being aware of these early signs of dementia, you can take action and seek help for your parent at the right time before the condition progresses. A proper evaluation and dementia diagnosis can help to ensure appropriate care and support.

senior talking with son outside

Talking to Your Parent about Dementia

When a parent shows signs of dementia, having an open and honest conversation with them is crucial. It can be a difficult conversation and requires timing and patience to ensure you break the news the right way. It’s also recommended that you get a diagnosis if possible before having the conversation so you’re certain they have Dementia. Here are a few tips on how to talk about dementia while considering the emotions and well-being of your parent during the conversation and increasing your chances of getting positive feedback out of the conversation. 

Choosing the Right Time

First and foremost, you need to find the right time to have the discussion. Choose a moment when both you and your parent are relaxed and uninterrupted. Avoid discussing the topic during periods of high stress or time constraints. Ensure that there are no distractions and that you have ample time to discuss their symptoms, thoughts, and feelings.

Create a Supportive Environment

Once you pick out the right time, next, choose the right environment for the conversation:

  • Make sure the setting is private and quiet.
  • Sit down face-to-face with your parent.
  • Speak calmly and clearly, using a neutral tone of voice.
  • Use empathetic language and show that you understand their feelings and concerns.
  • Avoid rushing through the discussion or cutting your parent off.
  • Allow them to go through their full range of emotions and provide as much support as possible. 

Addressing Concerns and Emotions

During the conversation, focus on the following key points:

  • Gently point out the early dementia symptoms they might have exhibited.
  • Reassure your parent that you are there to support them through this journey.
  • Offer to provide assistance in seeking professional help, which can lead to better medical treatment and management of dementia symptoms.
  • Share information about various care resources and options available to them.

Listening to their concerns and emotions is equally important. Encourage your parent to express their feelings and validate their emotions. Be patient, understanding, and compassionate throughout the discussion.

Addressing the signs of dementia early on allows your parent to receive proper treatment and support. By choosing the right time, creating a supportive environment, and addressing concerns and emotions, you can effectively and compassionately discuss dementia with your loved one while reassuring them that you’re there for them every step of the way.

nurse talking with senior couple

Seeking Professional Help

The most important part of this process is getting your loved one the right professional help. Dementia is not curable or reversible but can be managed and slowed down. You need all your help to ensure your loved one lives their best life.

Choosing a Medical Professional

A primary care physician is often the first point of contact and can provide guidance on the next steps. If the patient is experiencing behavioral symptoms or is under age 65, you might need to see a specialist. In such cases, the physician may refer the patient to a neurologist or geriatric psychiatrist for further evaluation.

The medical professional you choose will prove to be a crucial resource regarding care and information for the patient and the caregiver. So you have to choose the right one. When making the selection, consider factors such as the physician's experience with dementia, their communication style, and their ability to address the patient's unique needs.

Dementia Screening and Diagnosis

Diagnosing dementia can be challenging as doctors must recognize patterns of skill and functional loss and determine what a person can still do. Dementia screening typically involves a series of cognitive tests to evaluate memory, language skills, and problem-solving abilities.

A thorough diagnostic process may also include collecting comprehensive medical history, conducting neurological exams, and performing brain imaging studies, such as CT or MRI scans. In some cases, newer biomarkers may be available for a more accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.

Throughout the screening and diagnosis process, it's essential for caregivers to offer emotional support and ensure their parent feels understood. Being patient, empathetic, and proactive in seeking answers impacts the individual's well-being and treatment options.

Creating a Care Plan

After addressing the patient’s medical needs and finding the right medical professional, you can now focus your attention on helping them make the most out of their daily life. That begins with creating a care plan.

Managing at Home

Patients with dementia have different care and safety needs. They will also need assistance with their daily activities at home. Establishing a daily routine can provide a sense of structure and predictability for the patient. Adapting the home environment to accommodate their changing abilities, such as removing clutter, installing grab bars, and providing visual cues to help with navigation, is crucial.

Exploring Options for Assistance

As the caregiving demands increase, it may be necessary to seek additional assistance. There are many options available, such as hiring in-home care professionals, enrolling your parent in an adult day care program, or seeking respite care services. Researching local resources and support groups can also help caregivers connect with other families facing similar challenges and learn about the available services in their area.

Memory Care

In some cases, the progression of dementia may get to a point where the person requires specialized care beyond what can be provided at home. Memory care communities are designed specifically for individuals with dementia or Alzheimer's disease. They offer a safe and supportive environment tailored to their unique needs.

These communities provide a structured daily routine, specialized activities to stimulate cognitive abilities, and trained staff to support residents as their condition worsens. It is essential to research and compare memory care options to find the best fit for your loves ones needs and preferences.

At Danbury, we are committed to providing exceptional care for our dementia patients. If you're navigating through this journey, we invite you to contact us or take a tour of our memory care communities. You'll be able to witness firsthand the compassionate, professional care we provide that is tailored to meet the unique needs of each resident. Don't navigate this journey alone - reach out to us today and let us support you and your loved one every step of the way.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to approach a parent about dementia?

It can be a sensitive topic to discuss with a loved one, especially a parent, if you suspect they have dementia. Find the right moment and approach the conversation with empathy and understanding. Try to understand their perspective and remind them that you care and want to help them. Explain your concerns and why you believe they might need medical assistance. It might also be helpful to involve a healthcare professional in the conversation, as they can provide guidance and support.

How can I get power of attorney for a parent with dementia?

To obtain power of attorney for a parent with dementia, you should first consult with an attorney specializing in elder law. They can guide you through the process, prepare necessary documents, and ensure your parent's wishes are respected. It's crucial to act before their condition progresses, as the person must be mentally capable of understanding the power of attorney's implications.

What are the warning signs of dementia?

Some common warning signs of dementia include memory loss, difficulty remembering names or appointments, impaired judgment, difficulty performing familiar tasks, and having trouble with word recall during conversations. Changes in behavior, such as agitation and excessive wandering, can also be indicators.

What are the chances of inheriting dementia?

Genetics can play a role in the development of dementia. But most cases are not directly inherited. Some rare forms of dementia have a genetic component, increasing the chances of being passed down through families. Also, other factors like lifestyle and environmental factors can increase the risk of developing dementia.

How to determine the stage of dementia?

Dementia is a progressive condition. Part of getting the right treatment and care involves determining the condition's progression. This involves evaluating the person's skills, function, and memory. A healthcare professional can assess, diagnose, and recognize specific disease patterns to determine the current stage and provide appropriate treatment.

What not to say to someone with dementia?

When communicating with a person with dementia, avoid using complex language or speaking too fast. Do not argue, criticize, or patronize them. Instead, be patient, reassuring, and supportive. Encourage them to express their thoughts, and always keep a warm and compassionate tone in your interactions.

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