I still remember the call as if it were yesterday. My sister’s voice shaking as she told me the doctor confirmed Mom’s recent memory lapses and confuse were early signs of dementia. In that moment, it felt like a thick fog had rolled in, obscuring all sense of direction forward.
We had suspected something was amiss for a while. The keys constantly misplaced, the stove burner left on, the uncharacteristic aggression when we suggested Mom no longer drive alone. But hearing the word “dementia” somehow made it piercingly real. Our resilient mother faced a profound challenge. Where could we even begin to start caring for her needs ahead?
In the months since that fateful call, our family has navigated surprising twists and turns, moments of distress but also unexpected delight, on this dementia care journey with Mom. While often arduous, caring for aging parents also reveals incredible reserves of patience, teamwork, and love you never imagined.
If your parent has a recent dementia diagnosis, I encourage you to embrace both the pain and joy ahead. Their sense of independence may require mourning. But their unique spirit still glows bright. Here is what I’ve learned while caring for Mom that I hope provides you encouragement as you chart your own course.
Gather Your Caregiving Crew
When dementia enters your lives, caregiving duties and decisions intensify immediately. Assembling your care team early is crucial. Seek input from:
Medical Providers: Mom’s new neurologist proved invaluable, reviewing lead factors in her care plan and providing guidance on tracking symptom changes over time. Her endocrinologist also helped rule out thyroid disorders causing cognitive impairment.
Extended Family: While my sister and I provide most of Mom’s care, it has taken pressure off immensely for our aunt and cousins to fill gaps with medical transports or help managing bill pay. That support, even occasionally, is such a blessing.
Home Care Agency: Deciding to utilize home care services became one of the best decisions in provisioning consistent, expert care tailored to Mom’s evolving needs. More on that later!
Rallied by love for your parent, your diverse support network sustains you through the foggy days when perseverance feels impossible. Let others lend a hand.
Brace for Emotions – Both Highs and Lows
When I think back to our early dementia discussions as a family, anger, frustration and profound sadness punctuated them. Confronting Mom’s diagnosis was often an emotional storm before we identified rays of hope or joy peeking through.
What helped most in managing those intense feelings was giving ourselves permission to voice fears openly with each other, while also respectfully listening. We allowed rough days of grieving what Mom was losing, then purposefully focused on blessing-counting. Seeing her smile while singing childhood hymns stirred gratitude, even briefly.
Creating routines that nourished Mom’s spirit also boosted ours. Sundays we brought picture books to prompt warm memories. Basket arranging connected Mom to her favorite hobby of gardening. Even sitting outside in the sunshine sharing the familiar quiet soothed.
Embrace both ends of the emotional pendulum swing, from bleak to blissful. Through the fogged window panes, you’ll still glimpse beautiful light.
Tailor Tasks to Align with Abilities
In the early stages following Mom’s diagnosis, we created chore charts — noting step-by-step tasks — to reinforce that familiar rituals still brought joy and purpose. Laundry might be soothed by smelling clean clothes rather than actively folding them. Cooking got adapted to handing ingredients versus managing the stove.
Focus on what Mom can still participate in rather than mourning all she now struggles with. Abilities fluctuate day to day, so meet her where she’s at, then nurture a sense of accomplishment from one completed step. Even small tasks feel like winning Olympic gold some days!
As time progresses, abilities do diminish further. In asking for help bathing or remembering medicines, it’s essential Mom maintain dignity. This is where a home care agency became invaluable. Their compassionate care specialists provide discreet, professional assistance while letting Mom lead each task as much as possible.
Adjusting care approaches over time prevents frustration and nurtures Mom feeling valued. Meet the dementia fog gently — it soon parts to reveal she’s still shining her one-of-a-kind light behind it.
Seek Respite through Home Care Support
Even with assembled family support, the daily rigors of dementia caregiving still strain. When Mom’s nighttime confusion and aggression intensified recently, both my sister and I desperately needed rest. Her home health agency proved a lifeline.
Now three nights a week, a care specialist stays overnight with Mom. She prepares Mom’s evening medication regimen, monitors sleep patterns, and provides gentle redirection from agitation when it arises. Mornings she assists Mom in her morning routine — from bathing, to dressing, to making her oatmeal.
Their consistent nighttime support provides my sister and I much-needed relief. We’ve caught up on long-overdue sleep and given our own families and relationships needed attention. The home care team nurtures Mom, while also nurturing us as caregivers.
Seeking home care support removes an immense emotional and physical burden from your shoulders. You simply can’t walk the dementia care road alone. Having expert travel companions along the foggy path brings reassurance each step ahead.
Cherish the Moment
My mother’s dementia diagnosis sent my family reeling into uncertainty about so much — her future abilities, the grief over her inevitable decline, how we would manage intensifying responsibilities caring for her changing needs. The unknown loomed so ominously on the horizon at first.
What I’ve learned most profoundly through my own caregiving journey, however, is grounding myself in the present. Each care visit I ask — What brings Mom delight today? What precious glimpses still shine through the fog? I soak up her grin savoring a fudge brownie or the endearing way she sings me childhood lullabies though now a bit nonsensical.
In the quiet, the loneliness, the chaos of dementia, cherish these moments. Let the present eclipse the fog. The remarkable spirit that is uniquely your parent awaits underneath. Rediscover their shining light each day. I assure you, it will warm your heart and propel you forward.
I wish you and your loved one gentleness, compassion, and joy on the path ahead! You have so much beauty yet to embrace together.
If you or a loved one are considering the help of home care for your aging loved one, call the caring staff at Uniting With You Home Care. Call today 781-593-1682
Providing Dementia Home Care Services in Marblehead, Nahant, Salem, Danvers, Lynn, Saugus, Revere, Beverly, Malden, Peabody, Melrose, Chelsea, East Boston, Middleton, Andover, Lynnfield, Somerville, Swampscott, Everett, Winthrop, all of the North Shore, and Essex County.
- When the Fog Rolls In: Navigating Dementia Care for Your Aging Parent - December 2, 2023