7 Strategies to Cope With a Parent With Alzheimer’s Disease Who No Longer Knows You
If your elderly parent has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you may find yourself experiencing a wide array of emotions. You may wake up daily wondering how to cope with having a senior parent diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This particularly can be the case if your parent no longer knows who you are. Through this article, we provide you with seven coping strategies when you have a parent with Alzheimer’s disease (or other types of dementia).
Five Key Facts About Alzheimer’s Disease
Before considering coping strategies, we provide you with essential information that you need to know about Alzheimer’s disease and your senior mother or father. Alzheimer’s is a devastating, progressive neurodegenerative disorder affecting over 44 million people worldwide. It is characterized by memory loss, difficulty with language and thinking, confusion, disorientation, and mood swings. As the disease progresses, it can lead to difficulty performing everyday activities like getting dressed or preparing meals.
Alzheimer’s is caused by the deterioration of nerve cells in a part of the brain called the hippocampus. This is responsible for producing new brain cells and forming new memories. As these cells die off, a person’s short-term memory deteriorates, leading to their inability to remember recent events or learn new information.
In addition to causing memory loss, Alzheimer’s also leads to changes in behavior and personality and increased risk for depression and anxiety. Over time, the person may become increasingly confused and disoriented as their cognitive abilities decline.
Here are five key facts about Alzheimer’s disease that everyone should know:
- Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging: It is important to recognize that while some age-related memory decline may be normal, Alzheimer’s is not an expected part of growing older and should be treated differently from typical age-related cognitive decline.
- There is no cure for Alzheimer’s: While progress has been made towards developing treatments for this condition, there currently exists no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Treatments are aimed at mitigating its symptoms and slowing its progression.
- Early detection can make a difference: Diagnosing Alzheimer’s early on can help people access treatments that may slow down or improve symptoms associated with the condition before they become more severe or unmanageable. It may even allow them to participate in clinical trials, which could lead to greater insight into this condition or even potential cures in the future.
- Caregivers play an important role: Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be physically demanding and emotionally draining; therefore, caregivers need to look after their health to provide better care for those who depend on them. Support networks such as online forums or face-to-face support groups are available for caregivers who need additional assistance in providing care for loved ones with this condition.
- There are ways to reduce your risk: Although research has yet to pinpoint specific lifestyle choices that can completely prevent someone from developing this condition, certain activities such as regular physical exercise, healthy eating habits, and engaging in intellectually stimulating activities have all been linked with reduced risk of developing dementia-related conditions like Alzheimer’s disease later on in life.
How to Cope When Your Parent With Alzheimer’s No Longer Knows You
Dealing with a parent who has dementia and no longer remembers who you are can be a heartbreaking and emotionally taxing experience. It’s important to recognize that your grief, anger, frustration, and other difficult emotions are valid. At the same time, it’s also important that you take steps to manage your emotions so you can continue providing the best possible care for your parent. Here are seven tips for navigating this difficult situation.
First, accept the reality of the situation. Trying to deny or avoid facing the truth of your parent’s condition will only make it harder for both of you in the long run. Accepting the facts can help clear the way for healthier conversations and interactions with your parent over time.
Second, be patient with yourself and your parent. This is an incredibly challenging situation, so cut yourself some slack if you don’t always know how to respond in certain moments or if things become overwhelming at times. The same goes for your parent. Dementia can lead to mood swings and unpredictable behavior, so try not to take it personally when they show signs of confusion or aggression.
Third, focus on communication rather than content when engaging with your parent. Even though they may not remember who you are at times, they will still likely appreciate sharing a few meaningful words or gestures throughout each day. Try making small talk about their favorite hobbies or reminiscing about shared experiences from years past; these conversations can help create a sense of connection between you, even without traditional “remembrance” of one another as family members.
Fourth, use cues from their environment as prompts for interaction. A tangible item like an old photograph can often spark memories from years ago even if they no longer remember who is in them; similarly, playing familiar music from their youth might solicit responses like singing along or tapping out rhythms on a tabletop – both providing enjoyable opportunities for connection regardless of memory deficits.
Fifth, stay mindful about continuing with traditions that were meaningful to them in earlier life stages – such as special holiday meals or yearly trips – despite changes in cognitive functioning due to dementia; this helps maintain continuity between past and present while also helping them feel more connected/settled/secure in unfamiliar environments where memories may be less accessible due to confusion caused by dementia-related symptoms like disorientation or paranoia.
Sixth, encourage physical activity whenever possible; this helps reduce stress levels while promoting physical health benefits associated with exercise. Additionally, engaging in more physically active activities together provides an opportunity for enjoyable companionship even when verbal communication is limited due to cognitive decline – helping foster feelings of connectedness which many caregivers find fulfilling despite being faced with such an emotionally taxing situation.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make sure that you prioritize self-care during this process. This can include such things as scheduling regular breaks throughout each day away from caregiving duties, participating in supportive therapy sessions designed specifically for those caring for someone living with dementia, or simply finding ways to relax during downtime. All these activities may help keep stress levels down while promoting resilience during a difficult period in one’s life journey as a caregiver.