My blog aims to bring practical advice and information to help ladies face the huge range of challenges that midlife throws at us. Many of my posts have focused on the issues surrounding raising teens and young adult children. However, as many of my readers have pointed out to me, that is far from the full story. Many of us are also involved in caring for our parents who may be increasingly infirm. This is something that I know nothing about and so I turned to someone who did! In this post, I share a hugely useful source of support, information and guidance for those who are caring for someone with dementia.
Are you caring for an elderly relative? If so, you are not alone; around 2.4 million people in the UK care for ageing parents. Do you juggle your life between running a home, supporting your children through their life’s challenges, caring for older parents and in many cases also working? It will come as no surprise to you that women are the main carers in society. Mothers in particular are sandwiched in between caring for their kids and their parents.
When caring for an older parent you may very likely have to help them because of health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory conditions, cancer, poor mobility and possibly dementia. 60-70% of dementia carers are female. Also, 20% of female carers have had to reduce their work from fulltime to part time. It is also a fact that 15% of female carers give up work because of these caring responsibilities. This impacts on their sense of self, their role in the home and can create financial stresses. These are pretty startling statistics about those who are caring for someone with dementia.
It is not surprising that caring for an older parent who has dementia while raising a family can be very stressful. You are expected to be an expert in dementia care as there is very little support out there. Just when you think you know what is happening and what you are doing, your parent’s condition will change, giving you a whole new bunch of challenges. You probably find yourself juggling after school clubs with hospital appointments. You have to make sure your parents and your kids eat their greens. Meanwhile, you are constantly rushing about. But who looks after you?
If you can understand what your parent is experiencing then it will be easier to care for them and for yourself. You cannot do this all on your own, involve your family. There are some simple approaches that can help when you are caring for someone with dementia.
Caring for someone with dementia – what you need to know
Everybody associates dementia with memory problems, and yes it can affect a person’s short-term memory (STM) (only about 12 seconds in us all) and long-term memory. We need our STM to help us store information to remember how to complete tasks, such as remembering all the stages of making a cup of tea. If we forget one part of the process, such as turning the kettle on, the end result is ruined. Dementia affects other aspects of how our brains work. This includes the ability to communicate, this may be difficulty with expressing themselves or understanding what is being said to them.
A person can become disorientated to time and place, making them more likely to get lost. They can become muddled between day and night and this is made worse by changes in visual perception. Their world will look very different to what we see over time and this can be very frightening, especially if they also experience hallucinations. Your parent may struggle to make judgements and at times be unable to reason with you. This can be scary, frustrating and bring on a multitude of emotions which include fear, guilt, frustration and depression.
Getting the help that you need
Jane M. Mullins, a dementia nurse consultant based in Cardiff, has recently published an easy-to-read, practical book. Finding the Light in Dementia can help give you more confidence to care by:
- Supporting you through a diagnosis of dementia
- Helping you understand what your parent is experiencing
- Teaching you ways to communicate and connect with each other
- Helping you make subtle changes to the home to keep them feeling safe and content
- Introducing creative ways to stimulate memories and life histories
- Providing tips for sleeping, eating and drinking
- Showing you ways of overcoming the challenges of changing behaviour
- Suggesting ways for you to care for yourself
- Giving advice when considering professional care
Knowing how tired and stressed you may feel when you are caring for someone with dementia, ‘Finding the Light in Dementia’ is written in bite sized chunks. This makes it easy to follow and gives you space to write down any points you would like to make.
There is a question sheet at the back for you to refer to when speaking with your doctor and/or legal professionals. By following the approaches in this book, you should find that your parent will feel more understood. You will become an expert thereby helping you both find a sense of connection.
If you would like a copy of this hugely useful book you can get it * here.
I would be really interested to hear of your experiences in caring for a relative living with dementia. Please do leave me a comment below.
A note about the author
Jane M. Mullins is a dementia nurse consultant who has devoted over 25 years to the study and practice of dementia care. Through listening to and supporting people and their families during their diagnosis in memory clinics, caring for them in hospital and in care homes, she has helped throughout all of the stages of their condition.
Jane has uncovered certain common features that may help caregivers and the people they care for find better ways of coping. Her practice experience is backed up by expert knowledge gained from attending conferences, continuing education, lecturing and keeping up to date with research, as well as studying for her Ph.D.
* Affiliate link