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  • Writer's pictureRonald Allan Caluste

The Long Embrace: Caring for Your Senior Mother with Dementia or Alzheimer's

The bond between a mother and child is a powerful one, woven from years of love, laughter, and support. When a mother receives a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer's, it can be a devastating blow. The woman who nurtured you, guided you, and held your hand through life's storms now needs your unwavering support as the roles begin to reverse. Caring for a mother with dementia can be a complex and emotionally charged journey, filled with both challenges and moments of unexpected joy.

However, you don't have to embark on this path alone. Here's a guide to help you navigate the journey of caring for your senior mother with dementia or Alzheimer's:

Understanding the Disease:

The first step is educating yourself about the disease. Dementia is an umbrella term encompassing a decline in cognitive abilities that affects daily life. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, progressively affecting memory, thinking, and reasoning. Familiarize yourself with the stages of the disease and how they might manifest in your mother.

Building a Care Team:

No single person can effectively manage the multifaceted aspects of dementia care. Building a care team, including a primary care physician, a neurologist, a geriatric care manager, and potentially a therapist and social worker, is crucial. Each team member plays a vital role in managing your mother's physical, cognitive, and emotional needs.

Creating a Safe and Secure Environment:

As the disease progresses, your mother's ability to navigate her surroundings may decline. Create a safe and secure environment at home by removing clutter, installing grab bars in bathrooms, and ensuring proper lighting. Dementia-proof your home by removing dangerous objects and making sure doors and windows are secure.

Establishing a Routine:

Maintaining a consistent routine provides a sense of predictability and comfort for someone with dementia.  Stick to regular sleep patterns, mealtimes, and medication schedules.  Incorporate familiar activities and hobbies from her past life into the daily routine

Communication Strategies:

Communication with your mother can become increasingly challenging as the disease progresses. Focus on nonverbal cues like smiles, gentle touches, and maintaining eye contact.  Use simple language with short sentences and avoid arguing about disorientation or confusion. Validate her feelings and focus on providing reassurance.

Managing Behavioral Changes:

Behavioral changes are a common symptom of dementia.  Try to understand the underlying cause of the behavior - it could be pain, hunger, or anxiety. Utilize distraction, redirection, and calming activities like listening to soothing music or offering a familiar object for comfort.

Caring for Yourself:

Caring for someone with dementia takes a physical and emotional toll.  Make self-care a priority. Get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, and schedule time for activities you enjoy.  Consider joining a support group for caregivers, where you can connect with others facing similar challenges, share experiences, and receive emotional support.

Financial Planning:

Dementia care can be expensive.  Research and understand available resources - Medicare and Medicaid coverage, veteran's benefits, and long-term care insurance options. Plan for future needs by considering assisted living facilities or in-home care options.

Finding Moments of Joy:

The road ahead will be challenging, but don't lose sight of the moments of joy that are still possible.  Focus on shared experiences that spark recognition or evoke positive emotions.  Play familiar music, sing old songs together, or look through photo albums. Celebrate small victories and cherish the moments of connection.

Making Difficult Decisions:

As the disease progresses, difficult decisions regarding your mother's care may arise.  Discuss with your doctor and care team what level of care she may need in the future. Consider assisted living facilities that specialize in dementia care, offering a safe and secure environment with trained professionals.

Empowered Caregiving:

Remember, you are not alone. With knowledge, support, and a commitment to your mother's well-being, you can navigate this journey. There is no single "right" way to care for someone with dementia.  Embrace the power of love, patience, and a willingness to adapt and create a personalized care plan that honors your mother and her needs.

Caring for your senior mother with dementia might not be the journey you envisioned, but it can be a journey filled with love, acceptance, and unexpected moments of tenderness. Embrace the challenges, celebrate the victories, and honor the enduring bond between mother and child.

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