How do you take care of a loved one with dementia? An online acquaintance of mine, Kelly Joliff, recently lost her mom after a long period as her mom’s caregiver. Taking care of a loved one with dementia can be a very demanding avocation. Kelly shares some of the strategies she used to make the final chapter of her mom’s life enjoyable for both her mom and herself.
Dementia through a daughter’s eyes
Now that my mom is gone, I’d like to share some helpful tools that I feel my mom would want to be shared in hopes to provide comfort to those in various stages of dementia:
- When your loved one is first diagnosed, all of their hopes and dreams are shattered. The impact of knowing their future will be that of suffering and pain is crippling. There is no escaping the depression and fear, and the best thing to do for them is to let them know you will always be there for them, and remind them often that they won’t be alone. Acknowledge that yes, it’s scary, but you will help them through it and will be by their side.
- Agree with them on everything. The key is to comfort their fears, not create more. This is an opportunity to be creative. It helps to pretend you are an actor and can be anything you want to bring them peace.
- At some point, they won’t be able to take their pills. Anticipate this and be proactive by talking with the doctor about finding compatible alternatives in liquid or dissolvable tablets. The key is to transition to different medication without side effects. If you are in a legal state and the physician approves, my mom received great comfort from full-spectrum gummies up until the day before she passed.
- A blender or juicer is your best solution for nutrient-dense food. My mom used sippy cups for two years and when she needed lower-flow cups we switched to baby bottles and enlarged the opening a little to her needs.
- When they become unable to walk, encourage daily floor time on blankets and pillows so they can stretch out and have more control. My mom initiated this by leaning forward in her wheelchair and slowly sliding down with my assistance so she could lie on the floor in the living room with us.
- There will be firsts. The first time they forget your name, how to go to the bathroom, and so on. I know they are painful. Don’t let the thought stay in your mind. Acknowledge that it hurts and let it go. They would never want to hurt us.
- Ask for help from your family, hospice, or a neighbor. If you are doing it all by yourself, you won’t be able to take care of yourself enough for you to care for another. Self-care is extremely important.
- Make the best of it. I loved baking cookies and watching videos with my mom. Just a week ago I told her how I love having her to have coffee with and that was our thing. We would have coffee and ice cream together, and such a simple thing was a huge joy for us. Enjoy the little things. Stay in the moment and not the past or future. This way, you’ll be able to be the best version of yourself.
- Love hard but know that nothing in life is ours to keep. Cherish every moment and know that all is as it should be. You will not be the same person through it all, and you will experience joy, pain, sadness, frustration, fear, and sometimes all of it at once. Learn to focus on long breaths in and out; that will return you to the present and dissolve your fears.
- Use hospice. They are amazing and provided so much support for 24 hours a day.
I’m sure there are many more things I could list, but I just wanted to pass along my experience in hopes to help someone else. May we all be blessed.
Thank you to Kelly for allowing me to share her creativity and wisdom. If you would like someone else to take care of your loved one’s bills and insurance so you have more energy for caregiving, let’s have a chat.
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