Becoming the Parent

March 7, 2014

You wake up after an uneasy night’s sleep and start the day. The kids instantly start fighting with one another, the reason? Who knows but you make a mental note to spend some quality time with them this weekend. You mosey on into the kitchen determined to make a healthy breakfast for your family. As you’re cracking eggs your significant other scurries by, frantically looking for his keys. You bite your tongue, even though you want to scream that the hook by the door is there for a reason. While you’re setting the table you accidentally knock over a pitcher of OJ, there goes your delicious homemade meal and that’s when your Father walks into the kitchen. Clad in his underwear and only his underwear.

You want to cry, scream and laugh all at the same time but instead you calmly direct him back to his room, help him dress and then start making breakfast all over again. Is this what a typical morning looks like for you? If the answer is yes, then you must be exhausted!

Caring for a parent with dementia is really hard and one of the best ways to alleviate stress is to prepare, prepare, prepare.

  1. Understand the illness – Take time to learn about dementia and how it affects the brain; this will give you insight into what is physically happening to your loved one.
  2. Organize finances – If your loved one is living with you and you’ll be in charge of their medical and miscellaneous bills, it’s important to have a financial plan in place. Know how much your parent has and also how much your siblings are able to contribute to help you.
  3. Setup a calendar that outlines what your loved one is doing each day of the week. In the beginning stages of the disease it’s likely that they’ll want to maintain as normal of a schedule as possible. A calendar will enable you to better organize and prepare for your week.

Besides preparing for the logistical hardships of care-giving it’s also good to prepare for the emotional toll it takes.

  1. Find time for you. Whether it’s a half hour to read, sleep (or sob!) in your room, you need this time to mentally cope with what is happening.
  2. Embrace and deal with the emotions. They’ll likely be layered, some days you’ll feel grief, others it will be anger; embrace the feeling and allow it to pass.
  3. Learn to “go with” your loved one’s confusion.  When they tell you that they’re playing the piano at Carnegie Hall that night, rather than correcting (and often agitating them), encourage them to do some practicing.  What might be hard at first and counter-intuitive, is actually a very calming approach to dementia that will reduce stress for everyone and keep them happier.
  4. Ask for help. This is one we can’t stress enough; you don’t have to do this alone. It’s okay to call a friend to vent, ask a sibling for a day off or get on the phone and ask a friend to cook a frittata so you can stop cracking those eggs!

If it all becomes too much, consider looking into Senior Living. These communities offer services and amenities that most homes cannot, and eventually become the healthiest and safest option for everyone.