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Elderly Care for a Parent with Dementia

Often the transition to caring for your parent is gradual and perhaps you have even stepped into a care giving role without noticing that each visit has become more care-related than social. If you are finding yourself getting increasingly stressed or tired after every visit to your parent’s home, then it may be time to acknowledge you are now officially a carer. This acknowledgement comes with responsibility, to both the parent you are caring for and also to yourself as the carer.

In Australia, it is not uncommon for a family member to provide elderly care to people with dementia. 42% of this informal care is provided by the spouse or partner and 44% is provided by the son or daughter. 

Carers need to be aware of the emotional, physical and financial implications of providing informal care for their own health and wellbeing.  

Dementia can become worse as the person ages, so it is best to plan ahead and establish routines sooner than later to create a stable as possible foundation. Reading blogs such as this, researching and getting some additional help with make the caring process easier for everyone involved. More information about elderly care and dementia can be found at My Aged Care.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is the gradual decline of brain function, which includes thinking, language, understanding, memory and judgment. These symptoms affect decision making which ultimately mean progressively increasing care as the condition worsens with age.

Dementia is caused by several things, the most common is Alzheimer’s which accounts for at least 50% of dementia cases. Approximately 25% of people in Australia who are over 85 years old have dementia.

As an informal carer, you must look after your own health and wellbeing first in order to be able to look after another effectively. Here are some tips.

Physical Wellbeing

If you work full time and/or have a family of your own with children to care for, then caring for an elderly parent with dementia will take a good chunk of your time every week. You might find yourself with less time during the day and you may have only just noticed that you are more tired than usual.

Becoming a carer requires a more diligent weekly routine to help you stay on top of things. Creating a routine with specific care times will help you stay balanced and calmer, knowing you are fulfilling your other duties to your own family or work commitments as well as making time for social outings, exercise etc.

Emotional Wellbeing

The transition from son or daughter to parenting your parent can be emotionally difficult with feelings of grief and frustration. This is no surprise. What was once a social visit to your parent where you could relax and feel nurtured, is no longer. The role of nurture has now reversed and it is up to you to create a safe haven for your elderly parent.

Many people have said they feel like they have been orphaned when this occurs, so if this is what you are experiencing, you are not alone. This stage is a grieving process that needs care and understanding from those around you or a professional to help you work through and accept this new reality.

Financial Wellbeing

Becoming a care giver will affect your finances directly or indirectly. Even with government support, your ability to work may be affected.

Many informal carers are of working age and have to take time off work, arrive late or leave early because of their care commitments. There are also daily running expenses in caring for another person which need to be itemised so that you can keep on top of your budget.

Caring for your parent can be a rewarding experience, especially if you have been close throughout your life. However there is no guilt or shame to request help and support and to create some boundaries to enable you to meet your own commitments. 

Keeping things simple – 5 helpful tips to stay balanced when caring for your elderly parent with dementia

Routine helps everyone

Establish a weekly routine to help them remember to do things. Meal and shower time, doctors appointments, grocery shopping, visits to your home. It is easier for everyone to make these the same times every week as much as is possible. It will help your parent to remember what is happening on that day, it will also help you as the carer stay on top of your other responsibilities.

Less Noise means better communication

Communication can become more difficult for people with dementia. Reduce or remove entirely other noises that distract, such as the radio and the television, when you are at your parent’s home discussing things. If you are elsewhere, only communicate when the environment is quieter and they are receptive, otherwise you will create more confusion for them.

This is a time they may be feeling vulnerable. Showing consideration to their environment and how this affects them will make them feel safer and trust you more. Be patient and don’t interrupt, use touch to make connection and use short, clear sentences to communicate.

Discuss the situation with your family

Be open with your family at home, your kids and spouse. Having open and honest conversations about your parent’s condition, how this affects you and how it might affect your family will empower your kids to help you out, even if it is as simple as listening to you talk about it. They may even want to help out at some stage, so give them some responsibility in providing the care. 

Keep food and nutrition simple

It is best to serve foods that are familiar to them and to serve small portions perhaps 5-6 times per day. Provide food that is easy to handle and eat.

You can also set an alarm clock or give them a call to remind them to eat their next meal. Always offer a drink to keep them hydrated and remind them this is part of their daily nutrition.

Look for the cues when behavior changes

If your parent becomes withdrawn, upset or aggressive, look for the cues that led up to this change. If you can pinpoint some triggers, this will help immensely in your ongoing care and your sense of wellbeing. Parents have the ability to touch raw nerves in all of us, and when there is no filter as in the case of dementia, it can be very hurtful.

So remember to talk about it with a friend and get it off your chest. Don’t allow it to dwell as this can have a negative impact on you over time.

On a practical note, plan ahead and make sure there is an Enduring Power of Attorney in place with an Advanced Care Plan. This is especially important if there are other family members involved. Stay fit and well yourself and you will manage this situation much better.

If their condition worsens then you may be best to get some additional. This is where Home Nursing Solutions can help. By arranging some home care for a few hours a week, we become part of your care team and provide you some respite. Call us today for a chat.


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