Honoring Dad- Even When He Has Dementia
“Dad was my hero. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. At least in my mind when I was growing up.”
Michael went on to tell me about his life growing up. His dad was very involved he told me. He taught me how to play baseball and went to all of the little league games. He taught me about woodworking and how to change the oil in my car. Things that I would use throughout my lifetime.
“But more importantly” Michael said “He taught me to be kind, empathetic and help others. Dad was involved in the community and very well respected. He sold insurance and everyone in town knew him. We weren’t wealthy growing up but we were happy and well respected.”
“It just kills me to see him like this” Michael cried.
Watching your parent or your spouse or someone else you love decline mentally and physically is not easy. And anyone who has dealt with the harsh reality of dementia knows the challenges it can bring. Here are some tips that may help.
1.Step Into His Reality
This is the key to developing a comfortable relationship with someone with dementia. Instead of telling his Dad that his home had been sold Michael was advised to allow dad to reminisce. If Dad thinks he is just visiting at the facility you moved him into what’s the harm in letting him believe that?
Yes, there will probably be some wild stories. :-)
And if he makes up some wild stories (and he may) play along. Go with the flow. If you come for a visit one day and Dad thinks you are someone he used to work with, play along. By jumping into his reality and playing along you will avoid many of the communication upsets and frustrations. And you may just learn something new about your dad along the way.
After spending the time with her Dad one afternoon watching the Walton’s on TV Karen got ready to leave.
“Wasn’t this a wonderful day!” dad exclaimed. “the whole family was here and we all got along.!”
“It sure was" Karen replied.
And she suddenly realized that was what Dad really wanted. He wanted his family to come together and be nice to one another. This is something that had not happened in a long time. The effects that this disease had on Karen and her three siblings tore them apart. Karen vowed to work to repair the damage so they could be a functioning family again.
2. Always Treat Dad With Respect
This is so important. Even though he may not be able to bathe himself or get dressed he is still your father. Give him the respect he deserves.
One of the best stories I ever heard was about a young man who took his father out to a nice restaurant for lunch. Dad spilled food all over himself. People in the restaurant were staring and some even snickered.
The son ignored everyone keeping his attention focused on his Dad.
All the time he smiled and talked gently to the old man. When Dad was finished eating the son lovingly took an extra cloth napkin, dabbed it in some water and smiled as he cleaned dad’s face.
And he gently brushed away the food that had fallen on his shirt and into his lap. He did all of this without uttering a word. And he smiled as he helped is father up from the table. Then he told his father how proud he was to be able to have lunch with him, thanking him for the privilege. He was not embarrassed or frustrated that Dad could no longer manage basic activities like eating in a restaurant.
When you act from a place of love it becomes easier. Focus on the love you have for your dad and life with dementia will become easier.
3. Take Some Dementia Training Classes
Let’s face it you have not been trained for this job. And it is not an easy one. Expecting yourself to know how to care for dad is not realistic. The Alzheimer’s Association offers a lot of training classes. They teach you about dementia behaviors and how to deal with situations. Learn best practices for dealing with issues like sundowners or shadowing.
4. Join a Caregiver Support Group
Learn from others who have walked and are walking in shoes like yours. You will learn how different people handled situations that came up and how you can to. You will also realize that you are not alone in this. There is a lot of power in a group. Your group may also know resources in your community that could help.
Pat Mack has been helping families make the right decisions to care for someone they love since 1997.
Email her today for more information.
Or Give us a call today and come for a tour.