Dementia is widely termed as the disease of old, but it is not part of aging despite it affecting the elderly. The condition is characterized by a decline in problem solving, memory, language, and essential skills that can lead to an inability to perform daily duties. Dementia is not a sickness. It refers to broad medical conditions that trigger a decline in thinking skills. Severe cases of dementia can impair independent function and daily life. Without learning how to talk to a parent with dementia, caregiving can be difficult as the condition also affects feelings, behavior, and relationships. Alzheimer’s accounts for the biggest percentage of dementia, accounting for about 60 – 80 percent of the affected, with vascular dementia being the second widespread dementia. The vascular condition occurs as a result of blockage or microscopic bleeding in the brain.
The condition occurs as a result of damage to brain cells, which limits the capability of cells to relate correctly, resulting in difficulties in thinking, feelings and behavior. For example, your brain has distinct regions that perform different functions such as memory, movement and judgment. If some cells are damaged in one area, the part will not be able to carry out its function correctly. Specific brain cell damages can be associated with certain types of dementia.
To illustrate our claim above, the presence of proteins on the outer surface and inside the cells makes it impossible for cells to send messages properly. The section affected by this condition is the hippocampus, which is the part responsible for memorizing and learning. The hippocampus is usually the first brain part to be affected, which is why memory loss is an early recognizable sign of Alzheimer’s. Although most of the changes caused by cell damage in the brain are permanent and only tend to get worse, memory and thinking problems caused by some conditions can improve when treated.
Triggers of dementia condition that may improve after treatment:
- Medical side effects
- Thyroid problems
- Deficiency in vitamins
- Excess use of alcohol
Stages, Signs and Symptoms of Dementia
Fifty million people are estimated to have dementia in the world, with about 60-percent living in countries with low and middle incomes. Furthermore, nearly 10 million new cases are expected to occur yearly. The figure of general people above 60 years estimated to have dementia at a given time is usually between five and eight percent. Moreover, the total figure is predicted to surpass 82 million by 2030 and worrying 152 million by the year 2050. The speedy increase in numbers is a result of an increase in numbers of people struggling with dementia in countries with low and middle income.
The condition affects people in unique ways, depending on the disease’s impact and the character of the person before the onset of the condition. Generally, dementia can be looked into three key stages.
Onset: The onset is gradual, and unless there is keen observation, the signs can be overlooked. The common noticeable habits include:
- Inability to track time
- Failure to recognize familiar areas
Middle stage: The effects of this condition become more evident during this stage. They consist of:
- Forgetting events
- Difficulty expressing self
- Getting lost in the dwelling place
- Requiring assistance with personal care
- Changing behaviors
Last stage: At this stage, the affected person struggles with near-total reliance and immobility. The signs include:
- Unaware of place and time
- Walking difficulties
- Difficult recognizing relatives
- Escalation of behavior changes
How to Talk to a Parent With Dementia
Talking to a parent struggling with dementia can be difficult and stressing especially if you do not know about the changes happening to your them. If you have the responsibility to care for your parents, you must equip yourself with crucial communication tips. You should remember that your parent is experiencing difficulties holding multiple ideas at once. The inability to hold numerous ideas at once makes your parents jump from topic to topic without completing a logical sentence. Unless you are very careful, you might miss what your parent needs in the fabled sentences.
4 Helpful Tips on How to Talk to a Parent With Dementia
1. Understand Your Parent’s Communication Problems
Every person is affected by dementia differently. Unfortunately, almost all people struggling with dementia lose the ability to process speech correctly or even speak. The inability to express oneself can be devastating to your parent. It can also strain the relationship between you and your parent. The changes make caregiving an emotional and difficult task. Furthermore, learning how to talk to a parent with dementia lets you understand your parent’s needs. This helps you to give optimal care. The best caregiver should demonstrate patience, planning and strong listening skills as well as the willingness to be flexible. You must also understand that confusion and misunderstandings are common occurrences, which can increase frustrations. In all communication difficulties with your parent, we advise that you demonstrate understanding and positivity.
2. Learn To Cope With Speech Problems
- Speak your language: Studies have shown that people with dementia usually revert to their first language. As your parent loses the ability to speak, he/she will likely go back to the primary language. Therefore, you should prepare yourself by speaking as much of it as you can.
- Minimize distractions: A crucial point on how to talk to a parent with dementia is to keep disturbances as minimal as possible as you talk. It is always good advice to turn the television and radio off when you are having a conversation. Furthermore, sitting down face-to-face with your parent in a quiet, calm place can enhance your communication.
- Sing along: Despite losing their memory, people with dementia remember songs. Melodies and music use a different part of the brain that may not be affected by the disease. Therefore, singing can help you connect.
- Mind your approach: If the person struggling with dementia does not see you approaching, he/she can elicit aggression or anxiety. You should always approach from the front. Identify yourself by name before you start a conversation. Since a person struggling with dementia experience amnesia, you should not assume that your parent remembers your name.
3. Mind How You Talk
The way you speak to your siblings or friends should not be the same way you talk to a parent with dementia. Some of the things you should consider when talking to your parent include:
- Speak slowly: If your parent struggles to understand what you are saying, he/she will not be able to respond accordingly. You can help your parent know what you are saying by speaking slowly with proper grammar and pronunciation.
- One at a time: Since dementia makes it difficult to manage multiple thoughts at once, you should always focus on one idea at a time when talking to your parent.
- Keep everything simple: When talking to your parent, you should use a basic language and keep stories and anecdotes brief. You should avoid slang, idioms and nicknames. You should also use simple explanations and avoid reasoning and logic beyond the very basic.
- Avoid questions and baby talk: In your conversation, you should avoid asking questions to your parent. Although it is healthy to remind your parent about past happenings, you should not use terms like “do you remember …..” in your conversations.
- Avoid arguments: Arguing with someone with dementia is pointless. Even if you disagree with your parent, you should be agreeable. If your parent misuses names and words, you should go along with it without the need to correct the mistake. If your parent does not respond to your communication, you should wait a moment and ask again.
4. Go Beyond Words
To learn how to talk to a parent with dementia effectively, you should not be afraid to go beyond words. If you do not understand what your parent is saying, you can try guessing or even ask your parent to point or gesture. Mix the gestures with words. For example, when you agree, your yes should be accompanied by a nod.
You should also not be afraid to ask for help from family members. In any case, you are thinking to buy a cell phone for dementia parent. You have to look at some special features that really needed for dementia patients.
When talking to a parent with dementia, you should remember there is no right way. The right approach depends on its effectiveness to pass the right message. You can also use images as part of your communication. Avoid stressing yourself as it will only make the caregiving role more difficult. We strongly believe that our tips helped.