Dementia Care: The 3 Important Questions

non medica senior care for older people assisted home care services for seniors affordable home care in Minnesota help for senior caregiversIt’s an interesting thing, taking care of an elderly parent or spouse with dementia.  You need to have an open mind, a measure of creativity, and a good sense of humor about you.  These will help you tremendously as you navigate the stages of the disease.  In addition to knowing how to handle dementia-related behaviors, it can also be hard to know if you are making the right decisions concerning Mom’s care.  Unless you work in the senior care industry, you only become knowledgeable about dementia care when you are living it.  It’s the ultimate on-the-job training.

Many years ago, we had a client named “Clara” who refused to change her clothes.  Because of her dementia, she would wear the same outfit every single day, and left to her own devices, she never would have changed it.  One of our owners, Bob, was working with her and trying to figure out how to honor the family’s wishes for her to change her clothes.

Clara liked to eat in the living room with a dining tray on her lap.  Bob’s solution was to smear jam on the bottom of her dining tray and then set it on her lap at dinner.  When Clara picked it up, she couldn’t help but notice the sticky mess on her pants.  In addition to the tray bottom, Bob had smeared jam on his palm.  When she saw the jam on her pants and said, “Oh, look at this,” Bob rushed over and touched her shirt—smearing jam on the sleeve—saying, “Oh, and look, it’s all over your shirt too.”

Problem solved.  Clara could see her clothes needed changing, and she changed them right away.

Not every solution is that simple to implement, and some of them are emotionally taxing.  It’s not uncommon, for example, for those with dementia to progress to the point where it’s no longer safe to have their stoves connected or to need to be coerced into bathing.  We’ve had clients who have needed to find homes for their pets because they became incapable of caring for them.  If the time comes when Mom should no longer be living at home, it’s a huge struggle for their caregivers and families.

Last year, LifeStyle Trends presented a simplified guide to help those struggling with caring for a loved one with dementia.  Ask yourself:

Are they safe?

Are they happy?

Are they pain free?

 

If you can answer yes to all three, you’re doing well.

Julie Ellingson, LSW

 

 

January 24. 2012

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