How To Talk With A Parent About Dementia Symptoms
How to Talk With a Parent About Dementia Symptoms
Watching your parents age can be difficult and when signs of dementia appear, it can be harder than ever. Talking to parents about these changes may seem overwhelming, but having the tough conversation now can lead to an earlier diagnosis and will help everyone better cope with the changes.
Learn more about talking to a parent exhibiting dementia symptoms.
Use A Calm And Gentle Voice
Focus on keeping a calm and gentle voice whenever youre speaking to your loved one with dementia. Avoid raising your voice, no matter how angry or frustrated either of you becomes during a conversation.
As much as you dont want to talk down to your parent, you will need to change how you speak to them and your tone of voice. After all, the way you talk to somebody is just as important as what youre saying to them.
Keep in mind that they have memory problems they most likely will not remember your conversation, so dont expect them to.
You might also want to take a little time to yourself to cool off when you sense that youre getting frustrated. Dont be shy about seeking out support groups or respite care. It helps no one if you are burned out.
Most importantly, remember that this is out of your control. No amount of anger or reminding your parent of a fact will help the situation.
Get Support From Siblings And Family Members
Before approaching your parent or aging relative about moving to a memory care facility, contact family members who may be involved in the decision to ensure a united and supportive front. Several key strategies can simplify this process, particularly if adult siblings or other relatives are divided on whether memory care is needed.
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Planning For A Parents Future
Early diagnosis is crucial for allowing dementia patients and their families to effectively prepare legally, financially and medically. Ideally, most of these preparations and discussions will have taken place long before you suspect changes in their mental state. If not, helping your parent spell out their wishes while they are still capable of participating is an important step in planning for their future. Clarifying what is happening to a parents memory, judgement, moods and behaviors also makes it much easier for their loved ones to accept these changes and come together to create a care plan that accommodates them.
Make Use Of Music Therapy
Listening to songs or music is therapeutic to parents with Alzheimers and dementia. Play their favorite music to help calm them down and recall happy memories. This is according to research from the Alzheimers Association when we listen to music, it releases dopamine in our brain that triggers good mood. It also improves our memory functions and encourages social interaction more.
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Helpful Ways To Talk With Someone With Dementia
- Greet the person before moving into action
- Explain what is happening but keep it simple
- Offer simple choices instead of asking yes/no questions
- Break the task down into single one at a time steps
- Give the person time dont rush
- Respect personal space
- Dont argue or correct
The advice above is proven and will help. However, recognize your daily communication plan can vary depending on your loved ones capabilities that day.
Its not uncommon for sun-downers to cause your loved one to be irritable and angry. Its also not uncommon that one day your loved one seems very cognizant and with it and the next day forgets the names of your children. Be ready to intelligently improvise.
Support And Use Nonverbal Communication
Nonverbal communication is a powerful tool and it is especially relevant for people with dementia.
On your end, using nonverbal communication can involve smiling and maintaining eye contact.
Doing this can make the process of communicating less stressful for you and your loved one, which can make the entire process easier.
You may also find that nonverbal communication helps the senior to understand.
At the same time, you can promote the use of nonverbal communication in the senior, such as gestures and pointing. Often this can help a senior make their meaning clear, even if they do not know the specific word that they want to use.
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Get Rid Of Distractions
Along with dementia comes a struggle to maintain focus amidst environmental distractions.
In fact, it might be impossible for your mom or dad to focus 100% when youre talking to them.
Thats why you want to make sure to get rid of all types of audio and visual distractions if an important conversation needs to be had with your elderly loved one.
That can be anything, from turning off the television or radio to going to a private room where there are fewer people.
Give them the chance to focus on you and exactly what youre saying if its really important.
But remember that theres only so much you can do to draw your parents attention and focus.
Also keep in mind that they will have good days and bad days, so dont assume that turning off the television is all your loved one needs to focus on what youre saying.
Leave conversations for a new day if they can wait.
Think Through Who Should Have The Conversation
Is there a certain family member or close friend who can positively influence your loved one? Consider asking that person to be with you or have the conversation privately.
Have you had a tough conversation with a parent about dementia symptoms? Share your stories and tips with us in the comments below.
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Tips For How To Talk To Your Loved One With Dementia:
Having a parent or loved one with dementia can be stressful and overwhelming for them and for you.
After all, it can be heartbreaking to watch your parents struggle with the signs of dementia such as memory loss, difficulty with problem solving and familiar tasks, confusion and much more.
People with dementia arent trying to be difficult. They simply may not be consciously aware that theyve changed, which is part of the disease. Dementia patients reflect their view of the world, which means they might get angry about little things, like cold coffee, being told they cant do something or feeling coddled. They may also feel like they are a hostage if they are unable to participate in activities they used to do, like driving or writing checks.
Of course, some dementia patients do become non-verbal, especially in the late stage of their disease. Oftentimes this requires family caregivers to learn new communication strategies. They must be more demonstrative with their facial expressions and body language and, of course, must be more patient when trying to communicate.
Get Ready To Talk To Your Parents About Dementia
Prepare yourself for a challenging conversation. Think about how you want to begin the discussion and handle disagreements. Also, have some positive suggestions and ideas to offer.
Most importantly, understand that the conversation may be continuing for an extended period. If it becomes too heated or emotional, it is best to leave it alone and address the issue another time.
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Should You Tell A Person With Dementia That They Have Dementia
Telling someone that they have dementia can be difficult, but it is often something that most people want to know, especially at early onset when more can be done to treat the disease. It is a good idea for their health care professional and their family to have that discussion with them if they want to know.
When you tell them, be sure to use gentle, understanding language and avoid making them feel like they are being blamed or that they are a victim. Explain what dementia is in clear, simple terms and assure them that there are treatments available that can help improve their quality of life.
As a general guideline, several things will need to be explained:
- An explanation as to why the symptoms are occurring.
- A discussion of the form of dementia, in terms that are appropriate to the persons level of understanding.
- Any possible treatment for symptoms.
- Specialized services and support programs that are available for people with dementia.
On the other hand, the rights of individuals who dont want to know they have dementia should be respected. Doctors and caregivers should seek to understand their patients preferences and not make it routine to always disclose the condition to them. Instead, they should act appropriately according to their patients choices.
Tip #: Try To Guess What Theyre Saying When They Struggle To Find The Words
If your parent struggles to express something and you are having trouble understanding them, then help them by guessing what theyre trying to say. For example, if they are clearly having trouble speaking, then make an effort to further explain your guesses.
If they say theyd like to go outside and you guess that theyd like to take a walk, then say something like, Youd like to take a walk outside, is that it? This can help to clarify their words and can also help you to develop your listening skills.
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The Difference Between Normal Memory Loss And Dementia
Short-term memory loss is normal, especially as one ages. However, when typical memory loss begins to disrupt a loved ones daily life, its likely something more. For example, Hardy said, forgetting where you parked your car is normal.
Running out of medications and not knowing how to refill them, or you cant find your way home on an outing youve been making for yearsthats not normal, she said. When cognitive issues begin to impact the ability to perform daily activities safely and effectively, it is time to start looking for the cause.
Other warning signs of dementia, according to the Alzheimers Association, include:
- Difficulty problem solving
- Confusion of time and place
- Vision problems or understanding special relationships
- Problems speaking or writing
If youve noticed abnormal memory loss in a loved one, its time to seek medical help, Hardy said.
Check Existing And New Medication Interactions
Its important to be aware of new medications prescribed by the doctor to your loved one. Ask their physician and pharmacist to make sure that it wont create any adverse reaction when taken with their other prescription drugs. According to the Alzheimers Association, medication interactions may cause negative side effects and may result in aggressive behaviors.
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Your Parent May Not Recognize You
This can be heartbreaking, but sometimes as dementia advances, it makes people forget some people while they may remember others. Although it is difficult when someone with dementia does not recognize you, do not take it personally. Remember, it is the disease. Try to remain calm when talking to your parent, and continue to talk respectfully with them.
Find Support And Let Go Of Guilt
Broaching the topic of memory care with your parent and other family members can bring up complex emotions. Just as its important to take care of your loved one, its also crucial to prioritize and check in with yourself. Newlin recommends the following strategies, all of which helped her through her mothers move:
- Join an online or in-person support group.
- Talk to a therapist or counselor.
- Preserve your relationship with your parent or relative and remind yourself that moving them to memory care is an act of love.
I needed my mom to be my mom again, and I needed to be her daughter again, but I was her caregiver, says Newlin. Now that I have someone else whos taking care of her, Im able to have that relationship again. You have to be fair to yourself. Step outside of the situation and ask, Whats the best thing for this person and how can I keep them safe? I know my mom is safe now.
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How To Talk To A Parent Who Has Dementia: Say This Not This
When a parent is diagnosed with dementia, it puts an immense burden on both of your shoulders as you try to comprehend whats happening and grapple with the limitations facing both of you.
This is a challenging time and will become more so over time. However, there are things you can do to keep the connection with your loved one as strong as possible for as long as possible. At the heart of this is finding ways to keep your interactions moving in positive directions that are respectful and caring. Here are some tips to make conversing with mom or dad more positive and productive.
Remember, too, that you need to adjust your expectations. Those days of fast back and forth banter that used to come so easily between you will now require more focus and concentration. There will be periods of time when your parent seems much more forgetful and more confused. However, by changing the way you approach each interaction, you will find it easier to push beyond the difficult moments and make the most of the good ones.
Above all, dont attempt to take this journey alone. Consider joining a dementia support group where you can share your worries and concerns with others who understand, first hand, your challenges.
Dont Infantilize The Person
Dont talk down to the person or treat them like an infant. This is sometimes called “elderspeak” and it’s got to go.
Have you ever observed how people talk to babies? They might use a high pitched tone and get close to the babys face. While this is appropriate for infants, its not fitting for communicating with adults. Regardless of how much the person with dementia can or cannot understand, treat them with honor and use a respectful tone of voice.
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Dont Talk Down To Them
Respect that your elderly parents are still adults.
Even though you are now your parents caregiver, that doesnt mean that you should be speaking down to them in any shape or form.
Speaking to your mom or dad as if theyre a child can be quite embarrassing and degrading for your parent.
They might not understand everything that youre saying, but theyre still an adult and are trying their best to hold a conversation with you.
Be Ready To Retreat And Regroup
Despite your best efforts and intentions, when you sit down with your parents to talk about what youve been noticing, they might not not want to talk about it the first time you try to bring it up. They may respond with denial or even hostility. In those cases, stay calm and remember that you get more than one shot at this conversation. They may get angry, upset, defensive, or simply refuse to talk about it, Drew said. Unless its a crisis situation, dont force the conversation. Take a step back, regroup on the approach and revisit the subject in a week or two.
Memory Support For Seniors With Dementia
Its important to understand your options when it comes to caring for your senior loved one. Bethesda offers a variety of memory support services that can fit your familys specific needs, from in-home Senior Support Solutions to memory care units in our skilled nursing communities across the St. Louis area.
Contact us to learn more.
When You Tell Your Parent They Have Dementia Adjust Your Expectations
The days of quick-witted banter between you and your parent may have passed, so you will need to change your approach to this and future conversations. Focus and concentration will be the keywords of your interactions with a loved one from now on. And adjusting your strategy and expectations will help you get through the difficult moments and enjoy the good ones.
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Tips For Talking To Someone About Their Memory Problems
There isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to discuss what youve noticed. It’s a good idea to think about the person, your relationship, and how they prefer to communicate.
The following tips may also help
- Pick a place that is familiar and non-threatening, so you can talk about it where you both feel comfortable.
- Find a quiet time when you wont be rushed, disturbed or interrupted. If this is when the GP surgery is open and the person feels ready to book a GP appointment, they can do this.
- Choose the words you use carefully use reassuring and non-judgemental language.
- You might start the conversation by gently asking the person if theyve noticed any changes about themselves recently or been feeling any different from usual. Are they struggling with anything?
- If appropriate, mention things youve noticed or examples that youre concerned about. Show that you are raising concerns because you care about them and want to offer support.
- Be positive if their problems are due to an illness such as dementia, talking to a GP can lead to the help and support they need. Read our information on the benefits of getting a diagnosis for someone living with dementia.
- Listen to the person and take on board how they respond. They may not react how you expect them to. You may need to adapt your approach, but try not to worry if they dont respond well. This may come as a surprise to them and make them frightened and confused. Or they may not be aware of the problems youve noticed.