If you’re a mom, you know that you need to devote much of your life to your children. Once you have them, you must watch out for them if you’re going to be a responsible parent. That way, you give them the best chance to grow up strong and self-reliant.
However, as you get older, you may have a new responsibility: caring for your aging parents. If your father or mother develops dementia later in life, it can break your heart. You will see their personality fade away, replaced by a frightened individual you may barely recognize.
Coping with this is not going to be easy, but there are certain things you can do that will help yourself, your kids, and your afflicted parent. Let’s look at some of those right now.
You Can Stay a Major Part of Your Parent’s Life
One thing you can do is visit your parent regularly if you have put them in assisted living or a nursing home. You don’t want them to feel like you have forgotten about them. Make sure that:
- The staff is giving them their medication and nutritious meals
- The caretakers are allowing them to get plenty of exercise
Doctors know the benefit of physical activity for patients with dementia, so it does no good to leave your father or mother alone in their room every day with nothing to do. If you visit them often, you can be sure the staff there are taking them out to socialize and get some sunshine and fresh air if the weather permits it.
You need to stop by often because your parent still might have some lucid moments, during which they will know who you are. They will be glad to see you.
You also need to check them for elder abuse signs. It can be frustrating dealing with a dementia patient, and some nursing home or assisted living facility staff members could mistreat them. It’s when you no longer come to visit that they can get away with it.
You Can Take Your Kids to See Them as Well
You should also bring your children to see their grandparents often. Your kids may not want to go because:
- They might not know quite what to say or how to behave
- Their grandparent’s behavior might frighten them
You must explain to your kids, if they’re old enough to understand, what dementia does to the mind. You can tell them that their grandparent might not always be able to tell who they are anymore, but if they experience a lucid moment, they will be happy their relatives have come to visit.
Those who develop dementia will die from it at some point. It’s awful, but that is the reality, at least until medical science can effectively combat it.
Because of this, you can explain to your kids that their grandparent will not be around forever, and it’s very kind of your kids to go see them.
You Can Seek Therapy if You Need It
It’s probably not going to be easy for you to see your parent in the condition they are now. Doubtless, you remember them when they were young and vital.
You have to be the strong one now. If any child lives long enough, they see the subversion of the child-parent relationship. Once, your parents cared for you, and now, you must do the same for them.
You might put on a brave face when you visit your parent with dementia, but once you’re no longer in their presence, it’s okay for you to break down and cry if you need to. Your family can help you with these feelings, but you might also want to seek professional help.
You can see a therapist, and you can talk to them about what you’re feeling. It can be useful to talk to someone who is not a family member, as you can say things to them you might not be able to tell your own kids, or a spouse or partner.
This will definitely be a tough period for you and your kids, but you must remember that it’s tougher on your parent. Dementia is an insidious condition. It takes away who we are, and there’s little we can do to stop it.
Perhaps someday, medical science will devise a permanent solution to this condition. For now, if your parent does develop it, you must try to help them as you best you can.