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Caring for Those with Dementia

rebecca-shannon-expertsMy sister and I first thought the changes with Mom were part of the aging process. My mom would be forgetful of items like keys and dates of appointments. However, when we recently visited we realized that attention to her personal hygiene has slackened off and she is having difficulty keeping a clean home. She was always a meticulous woman before. The home was spotless and she enjoyed doing her hair and makeup whether she was going out or not. This is unusual for our mom. We started reading about early signs of dementia, and she has relatives that suffer from the disease. We have also scheduled an appointment to determine if this is the case with Mom. What can we do for her and how do we prepare for additional changes?

- Alexandra in Grand Rapids

Hi Alexandra,

Your mother is lucky to have daughters checking in with her on a regular basis. If both of you are noticing signs of a cognitive decline as well as difficulty with performing usual daily tasks, an appointment with a family doctor is a good place to begin to determine your next steps. Dementia is a condition where individuals show a steady decline in cognitive and physical functions over time. If dementia is diagnosed, there are a number of resources that your family can use to support the needs of your mother (and yourselves) as you negotiate this journey with her.

It sounds like Mom is currently living independently. In the future, Mom will become more dependent on the both of you and you may choose to have her move in with you or seek alternative placement based on the stage of dementia and your ability to adequately care for her and fulfill other responsibilities. If cost is a concern, Medicare often covers the costs of medical care for seniors.

Your mother can enjoy a wide-range of activities and social engagements that will keep her happy and connected with the important people around her. The joy will be in the moment. Depending on the stage of dementia, caregivers can come to your mother’s or primary caregiver’s home and--later on--residential care can be provided.

As caregivers, it is important to join support groups and take care of oneself to better serve your mother. She will have less ability to self-regulate her behavior. Self-care and understanding will allow the two of you to be patient and flexible with her. Children who are caregivers find that a solid support system helps them to manage and love their parents through the changes that this condition brings.

Resthaven helps caregivers change their perspective and learn techniques to improve interactions. A current caregiver said, “Having a well-educated and compassionate staff makes such a difference in understanding the disease and responding to it.” Speak to a caring Resthaven Transitions Coordinator at (616) 796-3800 to find out more about the support available to your family.

- Rebecca Reed & Shannon March, Coordinators of Dementia Care at Resthaven

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