Witnessing a loved one show symptoms of dementia is one of the most difficult experiences you can go through, especially when it’s a parent. You are confronted with the frailty of someone you formerly saw as strong and powerful, even in the early stages of the disease.

There is ongoing stress and anxiety, whether you are a direct caregiver or not. When will mom’s condition deteriorate? Why is dad shouting unnecessarily again? When should we begin to consider memory care? Furthermore, when a parent begins to forget, one of the first questions we may have is how long we will be remembered. After all, it is our parents’ responsibility to take care of us, not the other way around.

If you’re concerned about your loved one’s cognitive decline and don’t know how to approach them about their possible dementia symptoms, it can be an emotional rollercoaster for both people. It becomes a build-up of what-ifs, should Is, concern, dread, anxiety, and sadness. Observing the changes in someone who has played a significant role in your life can be difficult. It’s probably much more difficult to talk about it.

This guide puts together advice from top dementia therapists to help you if you suspect your parent has dementia. The most important thing to take away is that you need to actually talk to your loved one and address your concerns. By opening dialogue between you and your loved one about their memory issues and other possible dementia symptoms you’re able to collectively deal with the situation thereby strengthening the bond you have, especially when it comes to your parents.

If you suspect a parent has dementia, here are some ways to approach the situation:

Start a conversation about their memory and memory loss

First and foremost, where can the talk be held in a friendly and comfortable environment? Second, consider not only what you say, but also your body language, the nonverbal clues that help to keep the discussion going. There are numerous components of body language to examine, but here are three of the most important:

  • Eye Contact: Vision is a dominating sense that serves as a potent sensory tool for understanding our surroundings. Maintaining a gentle, open, and relaxed gaze with someone might be seen as non-threatening and welcoming.
  • Avoid expressing annoyance, rage, or impatience with your body language. Maintain a calm state of mind ( deep breathing may help here).
  • Gestures: A light touch can assist show comfort and support (Daily Caring). If you’re in the best position to talk to your mom, start with open-ended inquiries.

Have a plan but also go with the flow

While this might seem contradictory, dementia therapists know that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for dementia patients. Have a plan but also adapt to the unique situation. When having sensitive conversations with your loved one, having a few notes, rather than winging it, may benefit you, your confidence, and your approach. The order in which you make your arguments and the environment in which you make them may have an impact on how well they are perceived.

Timing is also just as important. Approach your loved ones when they’re most at ease and don’t make them feel like you’re attaching them or their behaviour.  Choosing to have these conversations in a familiar place, when they’re in a good mood and when there aren’t too many people around (Even other family members).

Have a conversation with your parent’s doctor

Surprisingly, people don’t often think to first chat with a medical professional. While ideally, you’d like to speak to your parent’s doctor in person or even via a consultation, that isn’t always possible. In which case an email or perhaps an SMS to your parent’s GP about your worries and observations of her behaviour may be a useful approach. Try to be straightforward and address all your concerns with your parent’s GP.

Start talking to your loved one about the early signs of dementia

If you suspect your loved one has dementia, it’s advisable to bring up your concerns about their memory problems, no matter how little or substantial, as soon as possible. A lot of work can be done if people are aware of their symptoms and take action with or without help early, while they are more cognitively capable. In more severe stages of dementia, a person’s capacity to comprehend, recall, and support a discussion may be considerably diminished, and it may be harder to have these conversations. Early discussion can aid in opening the lines of communication which will prove to be helpful as the condition progresses.

Be present and offer to help

People with a strong support structure are the ones who handle the onset of dementia symptoms better than those who don’t. Providing assistance and support during the diagnosis, and subsequent days can help alleviate tension, overload, and anxiety. Something dementia therapists recommend is that you should be conscious of your vision for your loved one’s support role. What you want and don’t want, as well as who you need on your team to assist you.

You may appreciate your function as a daughter or son the most, but you’re eager to assist your parent with keeping to their daily schedule. Another person can assist with additional duties such as shopping, housecleaning, bathing, and clothing. Families and caregivers put so much pressure on themselves to be “everything” for their loved ones that it may lead to a collapse. Their relationship, their self-perception, their social networks, and even their health ends up breaking down. Carer burnout is real, and it happens all the time. Begin with a vision for yourself and your loved one. Have this discussion as soon as possible. Then to cover the other tasks, surround yourself with a good, stable (reliable), and quality staff. It’s sometimes easier to put your loved one in a dementia care facility to give yourself peace of mind that they’ll be well looked after.

Livewell Estates offers dementia, Alzheimer’s and frail care at our specialised memory care facilities in Somerset West and Bryanston, South Africa. With an all-inclusive offering, our residents can benefit from experienced dementia therapists, daily activity programs, nutritious meals, personalised care, medication management and luxurious surroundings.