As an adult, one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do is care for your own parent. But it’s something that often has to be done in the later years of life. If you have a parent suffering through the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, it’s helpful to have a plan.
5 Alzheimer’s Care Suggestions
According to Alz.org, an estimated 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Millions more have some form of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and 1 in 3 seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
For adult children with two living parents, one of them will likely face some form of dementia in the coming years. Thus it’s important that you make yourself aware of the disease so that you can prepare yourself for the duties.
Here are a few Alzheimer’s care suggestions that hopefully shine a light on how to proceed:
- Have Conversations Early and Often
As soon as your parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (or even at the onset of dementia symptoms), it’s imperative that you work together to develop a plan.
It’s never too early to have conversations about what your parent wants to do, how their finances should be managed, who will call the shots, and what sort of healthcare options are practical.
- Choose the Right Living Options
There comes a point for most Alzheimer’s patients where it’s no longer practical or desirable to live alone. It’s at this point that a senior care facility becomes an excellent choice. The key is to find a memory care facility that’s specifically designed for Alzheimer’s residents.
Within a memory care facility, specialized staff are trained to work with residents in pursuit of slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia through specific games, exercises, and activities that stimulate the brain. And because they’re present around-the-clock, there’s always assistance available for basic needs.
Even if your parent doesn’t currently need memory care, it’s nice to have the option on campus so they can continue to thrive in the facility as the disease progresses.
- Share the Burden
You aren’t alone. Even if you’re an only child, you shouldn’t have to shoulder the entire burden. Utilize resources such as Caregiverlist in finding the help that you need. Seek out and accept the support around you. There’s nothing weak about embracing assistance. You have your own life to live and only so much energy to give. Do what you can and trust caregivers with the rest.
- Encourage Comprehensive Exercise
There’s ample research to suggest that a relationship between physical/mental exercise and brain health/cognitive functioning exists. This relationship is especially evident in individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s. The more an individual exercises the mind and body, the brighter their outlook is.
AARP caregiving expert Amy Goyer knows this to be true through the firsthand experience she had with her father. Not only would they regularly walk together, but Goyer encouraged an array of simple activities.
“As we walked we sang, calculated math problems, told stories, shared memories and appreciated sunsets,” Goyer recalls. “Dad took arthritis water classes, and later I hired the instructor to come to our pool to work with him. Depending on the weather, he also rode an exercise bike and walked or did exercises in the house with a physical therapist, another caregiver or me.”
Depending on how far the Alzheimer’s has progressed, you may encourage your own parent to participate in similar activities. There’s tremendous power in being able to exercise the mind and body and fight back against cognitive decline.
- Practice Compassion
It’s easy to become bitter, angry, and frustrated by Alzheimer’s Disease. And if you aren’t careful, it can influence the way you interact with your parent. Always remember that they are the victim and the disease is outside of your control. Love your parent for who they are – not who the disease has made them.
Putting it All Together
Caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia is challenging, but it doesn’t have to overwhelm your life. With a purposeful approach, you can implement clear action steps that allow you to care for your parent in a smart and compassionate manner.