It’s never easy to watch our parents get older and lose the capabilities to do certain tasks independently. It’s even harder for those whose parents have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Not only does this diagnosis guarantee a parent’s eventual loss of skills and independence, but it could also mean a loss of personality traits and characteristics of the person who raised them.
“Adult children of those diagnosed with dementia must learn to cope with many major changes in their loved one,” says Jimmie Fay Griffin, Executive Director of Clarity Pointe™ Tallahassee, a memory care assisted living community in Tallahassee, Florida. “For many, a dementia diagnosis means they’ll become a caregiver to their parent. Their parent may move in with them or require a routine that completely changes a child’s lifestyle. Those who don’t become full-time caregivers still have to cope with the logistical, physical and emotional effects of their parent’s disease.
“While coming to terms with a parent’s dementia diagnosis may seem like a tremendous task, it is possible to accept your parent’s condition and equip yourself to provide the loving support they need during this time. As hard as this may seem, you’re not alone. Many of us have walked this path, and we’re here to help you along your way.”
Understanding Grief and Dementia
Any time we experience a loss, we’re often at the mercy of grief. We don’t only grieve when a loved one passes away. We can grieve the loss of abilities, the loss of a relationship and even the loss of a familiar lifestyle. According to the Alzheimer’s Association®, it’s common for those diagnosed with dementia, as well as their families, to experience feelings of grief as the disease progresses. As dementia progresses, individuals often lose their ability to take care of themselves, communicate effectively, and maintain certain parts of their personality as dementia damages parts of their brain. While individuals diagnosed with dementia may still have many years left to live, many aspects of their life are lost.
As with anything we grieve over, our emotions go through a process. Typically, the grieving process involves denial, anger, guilt, sadness and acceptance. At first, we may deny that our parent is truly sick, or that it may not affect them too badly. We may try to believe that their health will get better, not worse. Once denial passes, it’s common to feel angry about the cards we’ve been dealt. Or, we may feel angry about the changes the disease causes for our family. Guilt might come in the form of negative thoughts or unrealistic expectations about your ability to care for your parent. Maybe you feel guilty that you’re still able to enjoy life in a way they no longer can. Of course, we also experience great sadness as we process the loss of our parent’s personality or past ways of life. But finally, we’ll begin to understand how this diagnosis affects our life, and we can begin to accept our role in our parent’s present and future well-being.
The grieving process may take some time, and everyone’s circumstances differ in how we process difficult emotions. In the meantime, it’s important to learn how to cope with what you are feeling.
Tips for Coping with a Parent’s Dementia
Thankfully, the Alzheimer’s Association® and other memory care experts have helped countless families cope with the challenges of dementia with practical tips and pieces of advice. Here, we’ve gathered seven helpful ideas you can try to cope with the diagnosis of your parent’s dementia.
- Allow yourself to process your emotions – Give yourself the grace to feel the grief, anger, sadness and loss that you may be experiencing. These feelings are normal, and it’s healthier for you to acknowledge them than to bury them inside you. Take all the time you need to think through your emotions, including those that may be conflicting. It’s possible – and normal – to feel guilt and relief, anger and love, pain and acceptance.
- Find someone you can talk to – You can’t go through this process alone. Find someone in your life who you can go to with your difficult emotions and troubling thoughts. Talk to this person about your fears, your frustrations and your doubts. You’ll be able to support your parent better when you have support, too.
- Don’t hide away – Don’t let your emotions sweep you into a period of isolation and loneliness. It can be easy to withdraw from social interactions and relationships as you deal with your family’s circumstances, but doing so may rob you of valuable support and opportunities for staying emotionally healthy.
- Find support – Join a support group for family members or children of those with dementia. You can benefit greatly from the advice of others who understand your situation. Support groups are also a safe place to share your struggles and ask for help. Additionally, if you’re struggling to manage your emotions on your own, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional for counseling support.
- Don’t let others bring you down – Some people may not, and choose not to, understand what you are going through. They may try to tell you how to feel or cause more guilt and pain through thoughtless advice. Allow yourself the strength to discern when others have your best interests at heart, or when their words come from a place of bitterness or selfishness. Listen to the advice of those who truly care for you and leave the rest.
- Accept yourself as you are – If you’ve taken on the role as your parent’s caregiver, it can be easy to set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Everyone, no matter how responsible, falls short of the perfect caregiver. Accept your abilities, and do the best with what you have. Accept the things that are beyond your control, and make responsible decisions about those within it.
- Take care of yourself – You won’t be any help to your parent if you’re not well yourself. No matter what you may be feeling, always take good care of your own health. Eat right, get enough sleep and stay on top of your physical health. Take time to relax and spend time with people who you love. Do the things that bring you joy. Only when you are full yourself can you help to fill up others.
Care and Support for the Whole Family
“At Clarity Pointe Tallahassee, we don’t just care for the residents in our community,” says Griffin. “We care for their family members and loved ones, too. By building strong family connections, adult children can better cope with their parent’s dementia, as well as become a vital part of their daily care. We strive to educate and support families so that caring for their loved one becomes a rewarding and fulfilling process.
“If you are struggling to cope with a parent’s dementia diagnosis, or could use support as a family caregiver, reach out to Clarity Pointe Tallahassee today. Our compassionate team is always willing to help you and your loved one through the journey of memory loss.”
Clarity Pointe™ … Our Difference is Clear
Clarity Pointe™’s Specialized Memory Care “Living” Neighborhoods are truly changing lives for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias – and for those who love them. At Clarity Pointe, our mission is to ensure our residents lead connected and rewarding lives.
Opening in January 2018, Clarity Pointe Tallahassee is unlike other providers that offer a secure memory care wing in a skilled nursing or assisted living center. Clarity Pointe Tallahassee will offer four free-standing, purpose-built memory care communities that are solely and entirely dedicated to memory care assisted living. Our communities blend luxurious surroundings with specialized care that is individualized to each resident and delivered by a compassionate, expert team of professionals.
We stay current on the latest trends and advancements in Alzheimer’s care and implement them into our residents’ care plans. Always moving forward, we combine the latest in evidence-based programming with luxurious, residential living and compassionate respectful care.
For each of our residents, we offer a life that is engaging, fulfilling, inspiring and meaningful.