As a little girl, I was very close to my great- grandfather. When he passed away, he had our entire family at his bedside. In his final moments, as he looked around the room, his eyes fell upon me and he fondly spoke his final words to me, “I love you, Doll”.
Though I was still in my pre-teens at the time, I never forgot this poignant moment and I have always remembered that my great-grandfather experienced ‘a beautiful end of life journey’.
This event fuelled an ambition to work in the area of caring for older people for whom my affinity and affection had been nurtured in my formative years. From experiencing life with an older person, I became comfortable and familiar with older people.
Today, it is not ‘cool’ to hang out with older people, parents and grandparents. As the years have rolled by, society has lost it’s natural ability to connect with older people.
There is a multitude of parenting books available on a plethora of topics ranging from discipline, to attachment parenting, to encouraging creative children. We as parents have a vested interest in our children. We encourage them to participate in certain extra-curricular activities. We educate our children in what we deem is the best possible way of imparting knowledge and wisdom to them. We support them in every possible way.
If a person’s parent, grandparent or loved one has dementia, they need to tap into certain aspects of their parenting skills and transcend these skills so that they can support their loved one who has dementia.
There are very few books available to our society with regards to how to tap into and support an ageing parent or a parent with dementia.
As a parent, we are completely dedicated to our children. We need to show our ageing parents this level of support.
One needs to look at an ageing parent or parent with dementia as a way that we can give back to our parents and show our gratitude for all that they have done for us.
As a person ages and the family structure changes, kids move out of home partners pass on, we find that an ageing parent may feel excluded , isolated and find themselves searching for purpose and meaning in everyday life.
We as children have a wonderful opportunity to show gratitude and give back to our parents in a similar way they gave to us, unconditional love that celebrates who they are as they progress through their ageing journey .
Even our elderly neighbour has a story…he or she had a dream, interests and hobbies.
When someone has dementia , they can become repetitive, they may portray signs of verbal agitation and can get confused easily. Someone with dementia often has a better quality long term memory which can make them think that their child is their mother or spouse. A person with dementia can also make demands and experience mild to severe mood swings.
It is very difficult for a child to go through seeing their parent or grandparent lose their inner essence. The shell of the person remains.
The best way to deal with this is for a person to handle this is to celebrate their loved one for who they are, to look for any facets of that essence and to offer support because they are your parent or grandparent.
Dementia strips people of their cognition. You, as a child or grandchild, can add value to your parent or grandparent’s life. Treating them with respect and dignity is what we try and focus on, that is what every person deserves.
We all want to make a difference in the world. We wake up with a desire to change the world in a small way. Feeding, washing and toileting a person, does not add value and give your loved one a place in society. We need to celebrate their abilities and interests and help them to cherish and live in the moment.
Dementia is often called the long goodbye. It is a long grieving process for children. These children have their own lives. They have their own children aged from infants and toddlers through to university students. Our lives are busy and stressful, however, we need to ensure that our parents or grandparents do not feel like a burden.
Our parents enhanced our quality of life at every stage of our childhood. We have to see how we can enhance their lives. It’s now our time to give back…
Many similarities can be drawn between parenting a child and caring for ageing parents ( without sounding degrading, this is coming from a place of enormous respect).
Tamar’s Tips for caring for ageing parents or parents living with dementia:
- We cannot patronise our parents
- One has to give an adult free choice. This is true even if the person has dementia. You need to find a language to do this in…
- When we support a parent with dementia, it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it
- Remember it’s not just about the chores. It’s not just about cleaning the fridge, folding the laundry, cooking meals….
- It’s about stopping and deciding what we want our parents or grandparents last years to be filled with…
- It’s about creating cherished moments and living in these moments
- Encourage yourself to be mindful and to be present
- Commemorate intimate moments
One of most beautiful things of dementia is that the long-term memory is preserved. Sit down together and look at photo album with your loved one. Rejoice in the beauty of their life and don’t talk and have a conversation that they won’t remember.
Group Homes Australia creates a home where children and grandchildren can visit their parents or grandparents, just as they would in a traditional home.
At Group Home’s Australia, we offer an alternative choice for those suffering from dementia and for older Australians. Group Homes Australia offers residents a home that looks and smells like a home, because it is a home.
Group Homes ensures that homes are not institutions or warehouses. Care is provided in a genuine home environment for the resident. Each home accommodates a limited number of residents, usually 6- 10, to provide personalised care. The carer known as the homemaker to resident ratio is 1:3.
Homes are nestled within local communities, close to familiar shops and parks. The homes are modern, safe and follow a sensible floor plan. The homes are beautifully designed and decorated with soft furnishings. Residents can add their own touches with family photos and sentimental ornaments to ensure that they feel at home.
Tips for those whose parents have dementia:
- Each child knows their parent
- Find out what your parent loves to do
- What have they stopped doing because of dementia that you can do with them? If they enjoyed baking, set up a table with a baking equipment and ask them to help you crack the eggs, pour in the oil and flour.
- The key is to offer them manageable steps that they can achieve
- Don’t set them up to fail. If you expect them to be ready at a specific time, then arrive early and help them get ready
- Accept that they have a cognitive disease that strips them of their memory and don’t get annoyed when they lose things
- Focus on their capacity and what they can do