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How To Talk To Your Parent About Dementia

Talk About For Now Not Forever

How to Talk to a Parent With Dementia

Newlin avoids panic by focusing on the short-term with her mother. Weve never told my mom that shes going to be in memory care for the rest of her life, she says. Weve said, This is where youre going to go now. They can help you with the things that you need help with. As time passes, she brings up coming home a whole lot less.

What To Do When Your Parent Says No

So, youve presented the benefits of memory care, expressed concern for your parents safety, and consulted a doctor or other expert and your parent still seems hesitant or downright hostile toward the idea of moving to memory care. Unfortunately, this is a common reaction. So common, in fact, that Troxel recommends families start the discussion early and expect a no as the parents initial response.

Heres how to deescalate the situation and increase your loved ones receptiveness.

  • Try to understand the emotion underneath. None of us really want to leave our houses, says Troxel. None of us really want to give up driving. Empathizing with how scary and unknown a new home or lifestyle may seem to a senior will help you reassure them in any follow-up conversations.
  • Put yourself in your parents shoes. A parent with Alzheimers or another form of dementia will act differently than they used to. It can be helpful to remember the beliefs, opinions, and values they held before their condition progressed, and use these as a guide when making decisions. You can say to yourself, Mom is running around town disheveled, Troxel says. What would she have said about this 20 years ago if I had asked her about what I should do? Friends and family can say, What do we think she would have wanted?

Regular Exercise And Other Physical Activities

Spend some quality time with your parent. Going out for a walk in the park together for some fresh air can be a good idea. You may also want to do some gardening or bake pies together. Schedule a day when you put on some good old music and let your mom or dad enjoy dancing. If they are in a nursing home, check their daily activity plan to see if theres a balance of physical and mental activities for senior patients.

Make use of arts and crafts, puzzles, stitching, or other activities to help engage the person and divert their attention away from the stress. These are crucial to keep the elderly persons with dementia physically and mentally active and keep the aggression and anxiety at bay.

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Angry Agitated Or Rude Behavior

Agitation and aggression are very frightening and difficult to know how to deal with. You may know your parent inside and out, but with dementia they may sound like a different person and behave in ways that could surprise you.

  • Try using a calm, yet confident tone.
  • Attempt to distract your parent when they start to get agitated and you might be able to prevent an escalation. Present another activity like looking at a photo album, folding laundry, or take them outside. If the environment is overstimulating due to too many people or noises, move the person to a quieter area.
  • Consider music. Music has been shown to have a calming effect on people with dementia. Choose music that the person likes and use headphones to eliminate outside noise.
  • Talk to your parents doctor about the possibility of medications to help calm agitated behavior. Approach this option with caution and ask about side effects or any other negative consequences.
  • Look for opportunities to give your parent control. Ask them what they want to do each day. If they enjoy reminiscing, ask questions about their earlier life. Provide as much structure as possible to create a routine.

How To Start A Conversation With Someone Living With Dementia

How to Talk to a Parent With Dementia

In these situations, you can try to refresh their memories with tangible proof such as pictures or ornaments. Keep your responses short and sweet by diverting their attention, or responding in ways that make them feel safe and understood.

It is advisable to not provide lengthy explanations because it will only lead to greater confusion and frustration on your side as you repeat yourself excessively.

3 useful tips for more effective communication

  • Do not bombard your dementia patient with questions and answers all at once. Dementia patients often find it challenging to focus, and we as family members have to be as understanding as possible.
  • Be patient and gentle with your dementia parent. Having to repeat certain things to them may be frustrating, but getting agitated will only make the situation worse.
  • Keep conversations short and sweet, and avoid lengthy explanations
  • Seek professional help. Caring for a parent with dementia can be challenging as an individual with no prior experience or formal education. If you need help, engaginghome care services can help ease your burdens while still allowing you to care for your parents at home.
  • Communication is a two-way street and requires effort from both parties. Developing an empathetic and open mind when dealing with your dementia parents is key to establishing an effective conversation.

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    Frequently Asked Questions About Talking To A Parent With Dementia

    Whats the difference between dementia and Alzheimers?

    Alzheimers is a specific, degenerative disease of the brain. Dementia, on the other hand, is a general term for a group of symptoms. There are many types of dementia and a number of conditions that cause them.

    How do you tell your mom she has dementia?

    The best way to talk to a parent about their dementia diagnosis is to be direct, but loving and reassuring. You can tell your mom that shes been diagnosed with memory loss, but that youre there to support and help her. Depending on your parents situation, you might even consider using the words dementia or Alzheimers if they apply.

    About the Author: Esther Kane

    Esther Kane is a certified Senior Home Safety Specialist through Age Safe America. She also graduated from Florida International University with a BS in Occupational Therapy. She practiced OT in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina for 10 years. She specialized in rehabilitation for the adult population. Her expertise in home assessments and home safety issues for seniors will help you to make the best possible decisions for your elderly parent or senior that you are caring for.

    Lead With Dignity And Respect

    Dementia isnt like other diseases. Its impact can be as dramatic and devastating as cancer but because it involves cognitive decline, it takes away something people have long taken for granted: the ability to make choices and have control. What makes the disease really unique from all other diseases is it requires someone else to help you self-determine your own life, Karlawish said.

    When adult children face parents with possible dementia symptoms, Karlawish said they need to recognize the fundamental ethical matter at stake. Youre in a negotiation with someone else about how theyre going to exercise their self determination, their identity and their privacy, Karlawish said. And I think most of us, when you frame it that way, would say we better be pretty, pretty dignified about it and pretty respectful about it.

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    Can You Do Anything If Your Parent With Dementia Refuses Help

    The only legal recourse you have if your parent with dementia refuses help is to petition the court for guardianship. Healthcare power of attorney is useful but may not be the right kind of authority needed to take charge and protect your loved one.

    With that said, guardianship is not a magic wand and comes with challenges of its own. On the one hand, you dont want to be viewed as a neglectful family member. On the other hand, you still cant force someone to accept help. Lets look at a few ways guardianship might help the situation and other ways it could hurt it.

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    Top Tips For Dealing With A Parent Who Denies Dementia Symptoms

    Dealing with an aging parent with memory loss or dementia
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  • Top Tips for Dealing With a Parent Who Denies Dementia Symptoms

  • According to the World Health Organization, there are over 50 million people living with dementia. It is the leading cause of a loss of independence in seniors and one of the hardest diseases to accept.

    So what do you do when your aging parent refuses to admit there is a problem?

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    Alzheimers Association Recommends Maintaining Routines And Sticking By Them

    According to research, having a daily routine plan is one of the most effective methods for reducing challenging behaviors of a senior suffering from this disease. Give your mom or dad as much independence in daily tasks as possible.

    Much of the frustration in Alzheimers patients come from losing the ability to perform basic daily tasks. If you are caring for your parent, it may be based on their having taught you how to perform these tasks when you were a child. This loss of ability can lead to stubbornness when you try to step in and do the tasks for them. When possible, let your loved one perform intimate or basic tasks on their own. This can reduce stress and frustration for both parties.

    Monday 17 September 2018

    Dementia is the term given to a group of diseases that affect a persons thinking, behaviour and ability to perform everyday tasks. While its commonly thought of as an older persons disease, dementia can affect people of all ages.

    Early symptoms of dementia can be vague and vary between people. While some people pick up on changes in their own thinking or behaviour that might be caused by dementia, sometimes these signs are first noticed by those around them.

    If youve noticed a change in someone close to you, the steps below can help you assist them in seeking diagnosis and treatment.

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    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.

    Tour Memory Care Facilities On Your Own

    How to Talk Your Parents about Early Dementia Symptoms

    I always suggest families tour a few facilities before mentioning it to the parent, says Nelson. This way, they can reference specific memory care activities and amenities they think their parent or elderly loved one will appreciate. A Place for Mom Senior Living Advisors can schedule in-person and virtual tours with communities throughout the United States.

    Theres another key advantage to touring a facility ahead of time: In the event of a sudden fall, injury, or dangerous wandering situation, families can more quickly choose and move their loved one to memory care.

    Parents will often say, Youre not shipping me off to a nursing home. People have these ideas in their heads that senior living is still like it was 20 to 30 years ago, but its changed.

    Adair Nelson, Senior Living Advisor at A Place for Mom

    To evaluate different communities, families can use this memory care checklist, which includes questions about staff training, amenities, security, and other important memory care features.

    After visiting a memory care facility virtually or in-person, the next step depends on what stage of dementia your parent or loved one is experiencing. For seniors with advanced dementia symptoms, having a caregiver choose their community can minimize confusion, says Nelson.

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    Dealing With A Parent Who Denies Dementia Symptoms

    Is Dad or Mom having difficulty remembering appointments or names? Or getting lost coming home from the grocery store? You may notice it is becoming more difficult to have a conversation as your parent becomes confused and cant find the words to finish a sentence.

    The signs of dementia are obvious to you, but when you mention the possibility to your parent, they deny the dementia symptoms and refuse to get help. What can you do?

    Its important to understand the two main reasons why a parent would deny dementia symptoms:

    Reluctance To Speak Up

    The Alzheimers Association released results of a new two-question survey May 31, in advance of Alzheimers & Brain Awareness Month in June, on how difficult it is for family members to talk with a parent about dementia-related diseases. The responses are concerning.

    Almost 30% of the approximately 1,000 adult respondents said they would not talk to a relative about troubling signs of dementia, despite their worries.

    A majority said they would be concerned about offending a family member or ruining relationship with that person . And 38% said they would wait to talk to their loved one until symptoms worsened.

    The online survey was taken last month.

    Pam Montana, 63, said in a statement that getting diagnosed early was vital for her.

    It is important for me to face this disease and share my story while Im able, said Montana, of Danville, Calif., who speaks publicly as an Alzheimers Association early stage adviser. That leads to an enormous sense of accomplishment, even with this extremely difficult diagnosis. I want to tell these stories and let others know they are not alone.

    She also wants to demonstrate that having Alzheimers does not mean an immediate end to life.

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    Focus On The Benefits Of Memory Care

    For Megan Newlin, a teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina, who worked with Nelson to find memory care for her mother, bringing up safety and staff friendliness made the conversation go smoother. After her mom suffered a series of seizures that affected her memory and mobility, Newlin highlighted how a memory care facility would better meet her needs.

    The way I phrased it was, Youre going to stay somewhere where theyre able to take care of you, says Newlin. She was really happy when I told her about the staff and their compassion.

    Nelson agrees that focusing on these relationships can keep the conversation positive and make memory care a more welcome transition. Similarly, talking about memory care therapies and activities may have the same effect.

    I needed my mom to be my mom again, and I needed to be her daughter again, but I was her caregiver. Now that I have someone else whos taking care of her, Im able to have that relationship again.

    Megan Newlin, a teacher who found memory care for her mother via A Place for Mom

    Parents will often say, Youre not shipping me off to a nursing home. People have these ideas in their heads that senior living is still like it was 20 to 30 years ago, but its changed, Nelson explains. Educate your parent on the types of communities, as well as the programming and structure that they have.

    How To Talk To Your Parent About Moving To Memory Care

    3 Steps to Helping Your Parent with Dementia That Refuses Help

    Memory care offers social opportunities, cognitive engagement, and an enhanced quality of life for seniors with memory loss. People with dementia receiving care from highly trained staff members report fewer symptoms and medical visits than those not receiving such care, according to a 2019 study in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. In addition, reliable care lowers stress and burnout for family members, the researchers note.

    However, to benefit from memory care, seniors and family members must have a conversation about making the transition. Years ago, families would have a heavy-handed approach, but its different now that weve learned more about the experience of people living with memory loss, says David Troxel, former president and CEO of the California Central Coast Alzheimers Association. I encourage adult children to form a partnership with their parent. Be authentic and genuinely express your concerns.

    Follow these steps to improve your chances for a good conversation.

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    How To Talk To A Parent With Dementia

    As your mom or dad loses the ability to communicate due to dementia, you may find yourself frustrated, upset or confused over how to converse with them. It’s easy to get discouraged and feel like conversation is no longer possible. However, there are a variety of communication strategies for dementia patients you can try that can make talking to a parent with dementia easier. Even in later stages of or other disorders, when speech may become difficult, you can use gestures, songs, photos and videos to continue to talk with your parent.

    Plan What You’re Going To Say

    If you witness memory or behavior changes, don’t speak up in the moment. However well-meaning, blurting out, “You’ve been really forgetful lately,” or “You’re not acting like yourself whats wrong?” may cause your loved one to get defensive, upset or withdrawn.

    Take the time to come up with a plan for how to have a respectful, productive conversation. Start by considering these questions:

    • Has your loved one noticed the symptoms?
    • Do they think their memory/behavioral issues are just a natural part of aging?
    • What could be stopping them from seeing a doctor? Fear? A logistical or financial issue? Do they think there won’t be any point to seeking help?
    • What approach has worked in the past to help persuade your loved one to do something they were unsure about doing?
    • Who could be the best person or people to broach the subject? Is it better to have a one-on-one talk or involve others?
    • Does your loved one prefer to have a lot of information to understand all possibilities, or take things one step at a time?
    • Would they feel better if someone offered to go with the doctor with them? If so, who?

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