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How to Take Care of a Family Member Who Suffers from Dementia

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By Allen Brown

There is something bittersweet about watching your parents’ age. There's gratitude mixed with sadness as you begin to take each day a little bit more to heart, a little bit less for granted. No one can slow down time, let alone stop it, and why would we want to? If time stood still there would be no more creating of memories. Perhaps it seems that it would be enough to stand together for eternity, knowing love fills the space. Yet, it is in moments of joy and pain together that we experience the deepest forms of love.

To sit beside your loved one, as they venture upon their final path is a blessing that not all are given. It’s a privilege to experience it with them, though it can seem like anything but. As memories fade and who they once were becomes a memory of its own, it can feel as though you’re losing control, as though you’re losing them. It is okay to feel like this. Sit with the feelings and know that it is all right to feel as though your heart is breaking a little bit more every time you see them struggle.

Yet, take comfort in the knowledge that there is life yet and it is worth celebrating. It’s worth love, dignity, fun and laughter, tears, and the sharing of hurts. You can still cry on their shoulder. You can joke with them as you always have. You can create a world for them that helps them to be connected with the world they’ve known.

Be Empathetic

If this new reality is difficult for you to understand, imagine how it must feel for your loved one. Confusion, sadness, anger, loneliness, and fear are all common feelings. It can be very difficult to watch your loved one become confused about where they are, the time and the date, and to forget both menial and important things.

Dementia is experienced differently from one individual to the next as different parts of the brain are affected by each person. Try to develop your understanding of how they feel and what they are experiencing by asking them questions and observing how their reactions change from day to day. Sometimes they will forget that you have had a conversation, or they may become upset at your asking questions. Allow them to live in the space that they are experiencing. If they are angry, sad, happy, uncertain - go along with it and remind them that you love them no matter what.

Accept Help & Support

It’s easy to feel lonely when your loved one’s memory fails and they begin calling you by a different name, in the midst of trying to care for them. This person who was once the one who cared for you suddenly relies on you in ways that you never expected. When your relationship shifts from a loved one to also a caregiver, you suddenly need to consider every part of your loved one’s life.

From companionship, meals, homemaking, personal care, transportation, and all forms of medical and paramedical care, it can be scary to hand any part of your loved one’s well-being off to strangers. However, there are professionals who dedicate themselves to providing the highest standard of nursing care in Dallas for your loved one, beyond their medical needs. Know that there are many sources of support and that accepting help is not a weakness nor is it letting your loved one down. In fact, it is one of the best things you can do for them because you can share the load, ensuring you can give your best and enjoy the time you share together.

This new chapter ahead has begun with uncertainty, but it does not mean that you will not share moments of love and joy together. There is often laughter to be had. You may learn things about your loved one you didn’t know before. Your relationship will reach new levels of intimacy and while there will most certainly be moments of sadness and hurt, trials and exhaustion, loss and grief, there is still life. Cherish those moments of happiness and learn to let go of those that cause you pain.

Consider writing down your loved one’s memories of different times and events in their life. Take photos and look at photos together. Go out. Celebrate birthdays, share losses, and mark milestones together. Play their favorite music and dance with them. These are not only memories that you will cherish down the road; they will help you and your loved one to manage and even enjoy this part of their story.

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