Age progression can be a trying time, especially when additional elderly care is necessary due to the physical and mental changes happening. Loss of strength, loss of function, and loss of memory are some common occurrences that the "sandwich generation" notices in their elderly parents.
This generation is faced with a dual role - one of caring for and raising their own children, and also one of caring for and comforting their aging parents. While it may be difficult to witness those changes happening in your parents, it is often even harder for an aging person to experience those losses, whether they are physical or mental.
Physical and mental fatigue can happen to anyone. There are special concerns, though, when mental fatigue is no longer a short span of time, and other, more prevalent symptoms begin surfacing. When an elderly person is afflicted with dementia, it is as if they are losing a part of themselves.
Dementia involves the loss of memory over time, and it may seem so gradual that dementia isn't even considered as the problem. Perhaps you've heard your aging parent mention that they are starting to forget things. Or, they may seem confused about common, everyday activities. Maybe they are getting frustrated about things that never bothered them before.
There are many types of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. Unfortunately, memory loss is a beginning problem for Alzheimer sufferers. They also lose their sense of judgment, their ability to function unimpaired and, eventually, their ability to do even the simplest tasks for themselves. It is a slow and painfully debilitating disease for the sufferer, as well as the person providing elderly care for them.
A comfortable, calm, and peaceful setting can do wonders when providing elderly care for loved ones with dementia. The goal is to keep their environment as trauma-free as possible, concentrating on their comfort and needs.
Forgetting common things and losing familiar memories can bring out fear and anger in a person. Sometimes, this is manifested in a difficult or ungrateful attitude toward caregivers. They may become argumentative when you question them about their day.
As a caregiver, you need to understand and review with them where they have been, what they were doing, or what they can remember. However, coming from the perspective of your aging parent suffering from this memory loss, it is like being treated like a child in the midst of feeling like an invalid. They are already struggling with their lack of mental alertness, and now they must also deal with their own child checking up on them. This role reversal can be somewhat embarrassing for them, and understanding their perspective can make a difference in how conversations are approached.
What can you expect as the condition progresses? Will you be able to cope with the changes that may come up, and are you aware of symptoms to observe or watch for in advance?
Consult a doctor as well as other caregivers who have looked after someone with dementia. Read everything you can on the subject and stay abreast of any developing findings in medical journals.
Sometimes, an elderly person with dementia may get combative, and you need to be ready in advance in order to handle the situation properly. Other times, they may withdraw, and not respond to any conversation or activity. Being prepared in advance for these types of situations will give you greater confidence in providing elderly care for your loved one.
A common problem for loved ones with dementia is the lack of short-term memory. Perhaps you heard your aging mother ask what she ate for breakfast more than five times already that morning, but it is important to answer the question instead of brushing it off or giving a belittling answer.
Politely answer the question the way you did the other three or four times that it was asked. While she is thinking over the response, find a different question to ask her, or a small task to involve her in. This distraction helps her get focused on something else, while it also prevents you from getting frustrated with her for repeating herself.
The person you are caring for has a problem with memory loss. No amount of urging will help your loved one remember something they do not. In fact, using phrases such as, "Oh, you remember, we did this..." may even cause more frustration than not remembering the activity, because now they are being coached that they should have remembered the event.
It takes a great deal of patience to deal with the same scenarios over and over again. Showing your own frustration or anger while providing elderly care is counter-productive. Take a deep breath, smile, and give yourself time to relax before answering the question again.
Dementia is a progressive illness. It can be scary for both the sufferer and the person watching them experience it. Use these tips to help cope while providing elderly care for your loved one, and to maintain their dignity.
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