Caring for Parents with Dementia at Home

As your parents get older, you will find yourself being called over for chores, maybe even more then when you were a kid! Physical or complicated domestic duties that they need help with might be mowing the lawn, cleaning the roof and spring cleaning their attic. However, if your parent has dementia, those domestic duties are ever-expanding with their progression and specialized care will be necessary. There are a variety of different diagnoses that lead to dementia, but it is important to be mindful that the symptoms may range from mild, to moderate or even severe. The severity of their symptoms and their intrinsic personality will provide a unique experience for you to navigate. While navigating the changing dynamic of your relationship with your parent, and what that means in terms of care, here are a few topics to get you started or to keep in mind.

Safety at Home 

Dementia and an ageing body can create new challenges when physically navigating the world, so to keep your parent safe, you need to first target dangerous areas and consider how to minimize risk. Depending on your parent`s symptoms, you may need to be more or less cautious. First and foremost, make sure to have a simple plan and emergency numbers clear and available next to the phone in your home. If there is an emergency, you, your parent or the caregiver will save precious time by having that accessible.

Consider your parent`s needs and what is necessary for them to be safe:

In the kitchen:

  • Are they able to be safe around the stovetop or oven?
  • Or would it be safer to take the knobs off when not in use?
  • Is there an accessible fire extinguisher?
  • What food or drinks are easily available to them?

In the bathroom:

  • Are the cleaning supplies safely inaccessible to them if necessary?
  • Have you mounted railings near the high traffic areas like the toilet and shower?
  • Can you install a walk-in shower?
  • Have you purchased a shower seat for ease?

In the living spaces:

  • Have you addressed any trip hazards, like rugs, and removed them?
  • Does your home always have accessible lighting for high visibility for them?
  • Do you have any pets that need to be crate trained at night to minimize hazards?
  • Do you have children that need to be made aware that they must tidy up their toys and belongings in communal areas?

Family & Communication

Having a loved one with dementia requires ongoing professional caregiving and community support for their family and friends. It will change the routine and expectations of your household, and it is imperative to focus on being flexible and compassionate, not only to your loved one with dementia, but also your family and yourself. Ideally, you have regular family meetings, perhaps both with and without your parent present, to hear out everyone’s thoughts and feelings to the developing situation. Your parent with dementia may have insights for how they want to be treated. It is important to foster an open line of communication with them and build trust with empathy and compromise. As well, your other family members may have their thoughts or feelings to share.

It is important to be transparent with everyone, including children. Children are intuitive and can be a great source of company for your parent. Discuss with them accessible activities, such as coloring or listening to music, and how they want to be involved with their grandparent. It is important to foster togetherness as a family, both with your parent and without. Often people with dementia need constant care, and your other family members can feel left out or forgotten. There are many programs like adult daycare or in-home caregiving that can give your family a break to bond while also keeping your parent safe and taken care of.

Resources & Research

Being the primary caregiver of a loved one with dementia can be both difficult and wonderful. Keeping your loved one in their home or your home is the best opportunity for them to stay safe and be well-loved. You and your family also get to enjoy them as long as you can. However, it can also be incredibly taxing. So make sure to seek support from family and friends who can help you run errands or spend time with your loved one for you to have a much-needed break. It is important to schedule some independent time and also time with your spouse and children. This time will help mitigate caregiver burnout and allow you to return fresh and happy. Unfortunately, it is sometimes not possible to have friends and family to assist, especially with more delicate procedures or for a longer period of time, so the solution may be to hire an in-home caregiver. Research your local home care agencies for a program that meets your specific needs. Many options are depending on what you require and it is worth the investment for your mental health.