By Cindy Sproles
Entering the “golden years” of life should be a joyful and exciting time. For most, the years when retirement becomes a reality and life grows less stressful, is a wonderful time. If aging parents have planned well, their homes are paid for, expenses are overall less, and this season of life, by all due rights, should be a time to relax and enjoy. But what happens when the hopes and dreams of a well-planned retirement shifts?
According to the Institute for Dementia Research & Prevention, there over “5 million individuals with age-related dementias.” One in six women, and one in ten men over the age of 55 will be affected by some form of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Thanks to cutting edge research, new methods of treatment, including medications, cognitive skills tasks, and physical activity are being developed to help manage dementia.
In an article from Helpguide.org, dementia includes a various assortment of symptoms from memory loss, personality changes, to impaired intellectual functions. Along with the decrease in memory, impaired judgment, faulty reasoning, inappropriate behaviors, loss of communication skills, and disorientation accompany the disease. All of these symptoms mean frustration for the affected parent and the family members.
It is still a mystery as to why our affected aging parents become obstinate to those they love the most, but the key to dealing with any form of dementia is learning to pick your battles. Frequently, well-meaning family members find themselves continually correcting facts with their seniors who deal with memory loss. For example, a senior may say, “Isn’t that yellow couch pillow beautiful?” The pillow is actually blue. There’s no need to correct the loved one, when the color of the pillow really doesn’t matter. The instinct to help the loved one remember the color blue comes with good intentions. However, correcting a senior over something this simple is frustrating and leads to agitation.
It’s important to understand, depending on the severity of the dementia, your aging parent is aware their memory is not serving them efficiently. They grow frustrated and irritable when they cannot control the thoughts they once managed successfully. There comes a time when therapeutic fiblets are considered not only appropriate, but necessary. Therapeutic fiblets are those necessary lies that allow affected seniors to maintain a high quality of life over a life of anger, frustration, and feelings of disrespect. Our nature pushes us to tell only the truth to our aging seniors. Never lie to your elders. But when the world of reality for your aging parent is thirty years prior and not today, forcing current facts on them sends them into a state of chaos. Should your parent think they are living with their spouse, who in reality passed away twenty years earlier, is forced into current reality, they are put at risk. One of two things can happen: 1) they will accept the news and begin the mourning process over 2) the parent will adamantly deny the truth. Therapeutic fiblets become a necessary fact in dealing with dementia.
Diagnosis for dementia and Alzheimer’s can be a slow process especially in the early, milder phases. Memory slips are easily hidden or brushed to the side, but as the disease progresses and loved ones drift forward and back in time, what becomes most important is their quality of life. It is vital family members understand dementia is a progression. Though simple word games, and reading are good ways to help exercise and maintain the brain, they are not fixes. Dementia does not improve, rather it only leads to eventual decline. Learning to choose the important battles are important. Providing a stress free environment becomes the primary goal so patients are relaxed and comfortable. Debating the day of the week or the color of a couch become less important and allowing a good quality of life takes the lead.
As loved ones slip deeper into themselves, recognition fades, names seem to go to the wayside, but the love that is felt by a caring family never leaves. Dementia is difficult at best, but holding tight to the joys of that wonderful parent are precious.
*Develop good habits and routines early on, i.e. putting the keys in the same bowl by the door every time, using post-it notes for reminders, securing a personal emergency response button.
*Simplify choices by paring down clothing in closets or lessening dishes and kitchen utensils. Rid the home of clutter. The fewer decisions that must be made for your loved one, the better.
*Have an on-the-road driving evaluation made to assure operating a vehicle is still a good choice.
*Chat with family and friends. This keeps the mind alert. Social interaction is vital to help maintain memory skills.
*Emphasize the joy in life.
Visit https://www.alz.org/ (Alzheimer’s Association) for additional information on caring for family members with Alzheimer’s or dementia.