Your elderly mother frequently repeats herself to you. Your father forgets to pay the electricity bill. They both forget that garbage goes out on Wednesdays because they have lost track of the days.
Does any of this sound familiar? Could this be dementia? Or is it something less worrisome? These are questions and concerns that are common to adult children of elderly parents. And you are not alone in wondering about such signs of aging.
The World Health Organization estimates that there are approx. 50 million people living with dementia worldwide, and this number is expected to reach 75 million in 12 years, by 2030. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease and likely contributes to 60 to 70 percent of dementia cases.
However, WHO goes on to note that dementia is not a normal aspect of aging.
What classifies as dementia?
Dementia is a term used to encompass impaired brain function in the elderly. Brain illnesses that contribute to dementia manifest as impaired memory and reduced cognitive ability.
The root cause of dementia is often due to a variety of injuries and illnesses that affect the brain. For example, when an individual has a stroke or develops Alzheimer’s disease. These can lead to dementia as a primary or secondary result of the illness. In this way, how dementia manifests itself will differ from person to person.
The physical burden of caring for those with dementia is often alleviated through home health care agencies (for more info click here). As it can be taxing not only for those living with this condition, but also for family caregivers.
How to recognize dementia in a parent
If you are concerned about a parent having dementia, there are some signs to watch for. Forgetfulness is one of the symptoms and can be a marker of dementia in its early stages. Memory loss can manifest itself through a person losing track of days or time. Or getting lost in one’s own neighborhood.
As dementia progresses the signs and symptoms may become more concerning. An elderly parent may forget their loved ones’ names. They may neglect to feed or care for themselves. They might begin to repeat themselves or begin to wander. In some individuals, communication becomes difficult, as language deteriorates.
In dementia’s late stages, individuals need full-time care, as they become incapable of caring for themselves. They may have difficulty with moving from one room to the next. And may become aggressive and moody.
If you suspect your parent is suffering from dementia, bring him or her to a geriatric specialist. Have their condition diagnosed so that you will have a clear idea of how to move forward.
How to care for an elderly parent with dementia
In dementia’s early stages, elderly parents will likely be all right continuing in their present environment. If they live with you, you will want to pay increased attention to their activities. And ask for help from other loved ones to keep watch at times when you will not be around to check on them.
As their condition advances, you will want to hire a home health care aide or consider a live-in facility. If you decide to care for them at home, keep in mind that their care will require much of your time and prepare and plan accordingly.
Certain prescription drugs are now on the market that can help to improve symptoms, albeit only temporarily. The Alzheimer’s Association has a listing of both drug and non-drug treatments for dementia.
Non-drug approaches consist of methods to help both the caregiver and the dementia sufferer better cope on a daily basis. Such coping tips include:
- Keep an eye out on the individual’s personal comfort levels. Are they thirsty? Hungry? Constipated? Look for signs of physical distress. Determine their source. And address the cause.
- When your parent becomes aggressive or emotional, realize that he or she is not being mean for the sake of being mean. He or she is simply showing further signs of the disease.
- Create a calm atmosphere in the home and in the individual’s immediate surroundings.
- Have the individual rest after a flare up. Keep stimulation to moderate levels. As over stimulation from too much TV, too many visitors, can trigger an emotional response.
- Get support from loved ones, groups, and professionals. Share your experience with others and learn of others’ experiences. Doing so can give you ideas of how to handle certain situations.