October 31, 2023
Giselle Bardwell
Caring for a parent with dementia at home is a deeply compassionate and challenging journey that countless families across the world embark on every day. As the prevalence of dementia continues to rise, the role of being a caregiver to a loved one facing this condition becomes increasingly vital. 

In this blog, we will explore the complexities of providing the best possible care for a parent with dementia in the comfort of your own home. We'll delve into practical tips, emotional support, and strategies to help you navigate the often turbulent waters of dementia caregiving. 

Whether you're a new caregiver seeking guidance or someone looking to refine their caregiving skills, this comprehensive guide aims to offer valuable insights and assistance on this profound and loving path.

Understanding Dementia

The first step in helping someone with dementia is to understand the disease. 

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a progressive brain disorder that affects a person's ability to think, reason, and remember. As the disease progresses, the person with dementia may require increasing levels of support.

It is a complex condition that affects each person differently. It’s important to learn about the symptoms and stages of dementia to better understand what your parent is going through. This can help you provide better care.

Symptoms of Dementia

Dementia encompasses a range of cognitive and behavioral symptoms, and the specific presentation can vary based on the type of dementia. The most common symptoms associated with dementia are:
  • Memory loss, especially of recent events
  • Difficulty with language and communication
  • Disorientation and confusion about time, place, and people
  • Impaired judgment and reasoning
  • Decline in problem-solving abilities
  • Decreased attention and concentration
  • Difficulty in recognizing familiar faces and objects
  • Changes in mood and behavior, often including mood swings, depression, or aggression

To learn more about dementia and the examples of dementia symptoms, visit the National Institute on Aging

Stages of Dementia

Dementia typically progresses through stages, though the specific timeline and symptoms can vary among individuals. Here is a brief overview of the common stages of dementia:

1. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

  • In this early stage, individuals may experience subtle memory problems.
  • Daily life is generally manageable, and they can function independently.

2. Early Stage Dementia

  • Memory lapses become more noticeable.
  • Difficulty with language, planning, and problem-solving may emerge.
  • The individual can still perform many daily tasks but may need more support.

3. Moderate Stage Dementia

  • Memory loss and cognitive decline become more pronounced.
  • Individuals may become disoriented, forget names of close family members, and struggle with routine tasks.
  • Behavioral changes, agitation, and wandering can occur.

4. Severe Stage Dementia

  • Profound memory loss makes it challenging to recognize loved ones or recall personal history.
  • Communication becomes severely impaired.
  • Assistance with all aspects of daily life, including bathing and eating, is required.

5. End-Stage Dementia

  • Individuals lose the ability to walk, sit, or swallow.
  • Communication is minimal, and they become vulnerable to infections.
  • Caregivers focus on ensuring comfort and quality of life.
It's important to remember that not everyone with dementia follows this exact progression, and the course can vary based on the underlying cause of dementia.

Care and support should be tailored to the individual's specific needs and circumstances at each stage. Let’s discuss some ways you can support your loved one through the various stages of dementia.

Effective Communication for Parents with Dementia

Effective communication is essential when caring for a parent with dementia. As the disease progresses, your parent may have difficulty expressing themselves or understanding what you are saying. 

Ways to Communicate with Dementia Patients

Communicating with parents who have dementia can be challenging, but there are several strategies that can help improve the quality of interaction and reduce frustration for both you and your loved one. 

Here are some ways to effectively communicate with parents who have dementia:
  1. Maintain Eye Contact: When speaking to them, make sure you have their attention and maintain eye contact. This can help them feel more engaged and connected.
  2. Use Simple Language: Keep your language clear and simple. Avoid jargon, complex sentences, or ambiguous words. Use short, easy-to-understand phrases.
  3. Speak Slowly and Calmly: Avoid rushing through conversations. Speak in a calm and unhurried manner. Give them time to process what you're saying.
  4. Ask Simple Questions: Instead of open-ended questions, ask questions that can be answered with a "yes" or "no." For example, "Would you like tea?" rather than "What would you like to drink?"
  5. Listen Actively: Pay close attention to their responses and nonverbal cues. Listen for their emotions and try to understand their feelings.
  6. Avoid Correcting or Arguing: If they say something that is inaccurate or doesn't make sense, it's usually best to go along with it rather than correcting them. Correcting may cause frustration.
  7. Provide Visual or Tactile Cues: Using gestures, pointing, or offering objects can help convey your message. For example, if you want them to eat, you can place a spoon in their hand. Shops such as Etsy, sell adult communication cards to assist non-verbal parents.
  8. Create a Calm Environment: Reduce distractions and noise in the environment to make it easier for them to focus on the conversation.
  9. Use Memory Aids: Visual aids, like pictures or a memory book with photos and familiar information, can be helpful in triggering memories and conversations.
  10. Be Patient: Dementia can cause delays in processing information and responding. Give them the time they need to express themselves.
Remember that dementia can be frustrating for both the individual and the caregiver. Be patient, flexible, and compassionate in your interactions, and focus on preserving their dignity and comfort during your conversations.


Creating a Safe Environment for Parents with Dementia

At-Home Safety for Parents with Dementia

As dementia progresses, your parent may become more prone to accidents and injuries. Creating a safe home environment for parents with dementia is crucial to prevent accidents and provide a comfortable living space. Here's a list of safety precautions you can implement at home.

1. Remove Hazards and Clutter

  • Clear pathways and living areas of tripping hazards, such as loose rugs, cords, and clutter.
  • Secure or remove furniture with sharp edges to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Remove ice and snow from areas immediately outside your home during winter months.

2. Install Safety Features

  • Add grab bars in the bathroom and near the bed to assist with mobility and prevent falls.
  • Use non-slip mats in the bathroom and kitchen to reduce the risk of slipping.

3. Lock Away Hazardous Items

  • Safely store medications, cleaning supplies, and any toxic substances out of reach and in a locked cabinet or drawer.
  • Secure potentially dangerous items like knives, scissors, and firearms in a locked, inaccessible place.

4. Improve Lighting

  • Ensure that there is adequate lighting in all areas of the home, including hallways and staircases.
  • Use nightlights to help with navigation at night, and consider motion-activated lighting.

5. Implement Wandering Precautions

  • Install door alarms or childproof locks on exterior doors to prevent wandering.
  • Place identification with contact information on the person with dementia in case they get lost.
Remember that individuals with dementia may become disoriented and forgetful, so it's essential to regularly reassess and adapt your home environment as their needs change. Regular safety checks and open communication with healthcare professionals can help ensure the home remains a safe and secure place for your loved one.

Address Behavioral Issues Related to Dementia

Dementia can lead to various behavioral issues, such as agitation, wandering, sundowning, and repetitive behaviors. To address these challenges, it's crucial to identify underlying triggers and create a calm, routine-oriented environment. 

For aggressive behaviors, find the cause and redirect attention or use distraction techniques. Safety measures like door alarms can prevent wandering. In cases of hallucinations or delusions, avoid arguments and gently redirect attention. 

For mood changes, encourage social engagement and, if necessary, consult a healthcare professional. In situations involving inappropriate behavior, prioritize privacy and use distraction methods. 

Addressing refusal to eat or bathe requires offering choices and creating a pleasant environment, while resistance to care can be managed with empathy and positive reinforcement. Tailoring strategies to the individual's needs is key, and professional guidance may be sought when necessary.

Ensure Safe and Consistent Use of Medications

Managing medication is a crucial aspect of dementia care, helping to address the symptoms of dementia and maintain seniors' overall health. Key features of medication management include:

1. Medication Oversight: Reviewing seniors' medication regimens and coordinating with healthcare providers to ensure the appropriate use of medications, possibly minimizing cognitive side effects.
2. Promoting Adherence: Implementing strategies to encourage consistent medication use, such as visual reminders or pill organizers, accommodating for potential memory impairments.
3. Monitoring Effects: Regularly observing seniors for adverse medication effects or changes in symptoms, allowing for prompt adjustments as needed.

If you’re having difficulties, read our strategies to help parents refusing to take medication to assist with the process and hopefully, remove conflict from your daily schedule.

Providing Cognitive and Emotional Support for Parents with Dementia

Dementia can be a scary and confusing experience for your parent. It is essential to provide emotional support and reassurance. This can include listening to your parent's concerns, providing comforting touch, and engaging in activities that your parent enjoys. By providing emotional support, you can help to reduce anxiety and stress.

Engage in Meaningful Activities

Engaging in meaningful activities can help to improve your parent's quality of life and provide a sense of purpose. This can include activities such as drawing, gardening, or playing music. It is important to tailor activities to your parent's interests and abilities. For example:  Incorporating meaningful activities into seniors' daily routines can provide cognitive stimulation, promote social interaction, and alleviate common dementia symptoms, such as agitation and anxiety. When searching for an outlet, key aspects of specially designed activities include:
  1. Cognitive Stimulation: Providing mentally stimulating activities, such as puzzles or reminiscence therapy, to enhance cognitive function and slow the progression of dementia symptoms.
  2. Creative Expression: Encouraging seniors to participate in creative outlets, such as painting, music, or gardening, offering a sense of accomplishment and opportunities for self-expression.
  3. Physical Exercise: Facilitating appropriate, enjoyable physical activities that promote strength, flexibility, and balance, while considering seniors' limitations.

Seeking Support for Parents with Dementia

Caring for a parent with dementia can be overwhelming and isolating. It is essential to seek support from friends, family, and professional caregivers. 

Third Party Support for Parents with Dementia

Third-party support for parents with dementia is a crucial resource for both caregivers and individuals with dementia. If you’re unsure when to rely on an outsourced care option, please read our resource “When to Get Help at Home for Your Aging Parents.
Respite care for Dementia Patient Caregivers
Respite care is a valuable service that offers much-needed relief to family caregivers. With respite care, a trained professional caregiver steps in to provide assistance for a few hours or even several days, allowing primary caregivers to take a break, recharge, and tend to their own well-being. This temporary caregiving arrangement can be a lifeline for those who might feel overwhelmed or exhausted, ensuring that the person with dementia continues to receive high-quality care during the caregiver's respite.

At BrightStar Care Cleveland, we offer support to caregivers by offering companion care or additional in-home services to those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. We guarantee each client receives personalized care by qualified in-home aides and nurses to ensure they’re comfortable and content.
Support Groups for Dementia Patient Caregivers
Support groups are another integral component of third-party support. These groups create a community where caregivers can share their experiences, challenges, and advice with others who are on a similar journey. Connecting with fellow caregivers can be emotionally reassuring and can provide a valuable opportunity to gain insights and strategies for coping with the unique demands of dementia caregiving. 

Support groups often serve as a source of emotional comfort, offering a space to vent, seek advice, and form lasting connections with people who understand the complexities of dementia caregiving. In both respite care and support groups, third-party assistance can enhance the quality of care provided to individuals with dementia while ensuring caregivers receive the vital support and resources they need.

Dealing with Dementia in a Parent

Caring for an elderly parent with dementia can be a challenging and emotional experience, but it is also a rewarding one. By understanding dementia, communicating effectively, creating a safe environment and providing cognitive and emotional support, you can help your loved one find peace.

If you have questions or find that you need additional support to keep your loved one at home, please contact our in-home care experts at BrightStar Care Cleveland by calling (440) 613-1500 or by reaching out via our website here. Our support staff is available 24/7 to provide care and compassion for you and your elderly parent suffering from dementia.