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How to Deal With a Parent With Dementia

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An older adult woman and her daughter sitting on a couch smiling and talking to each other while holding a cup of tea

Caring for a parent with dementia can be one of life’s most challenging experiences. It requires patience, understanding, and a great deal of emotional resilience. 

As their cognitive abilities decline, the roles may reverse, and you may find yourself taking on more of a caregiver role. While the journey may be difficult, there are strategies and resources available to help you navigate this path with compassion and grace.

You can be more prepared to navigate the complexities of dealing with dementia in a parent by:

  • Understanding dementia
  • Practicing effective communication
  • Patience and flexibility 
  • Establishing a routine
  • Developing a support network
  • Maintaining good self-care
  • Financial planning
  • Safety planning 
  • Ensuring quality of life

Here at Fox Trail Memory Care South River, we believe everyone deserves to live a full life, no matter their age or cognitive state. That’s why we make sure each member of our community gets a personalized experience that suits their interests.

We aim to create an environment where all our residents can enjoy life and feel fulfilled every day with a high staff-to-resident ratio, a wide variety of services, activities, and events, and excellent medical services. 

Understanding Dementia

Dementia is a progressive neurological condition that affects memory, thinking, and behavior. It can be caused by various diseases, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common. 

Understanding the nature of dementia is crucial for effective caregiving. Educate yourself about the specific type of dementia your parent has, its symptoms, and its progression.

Different Types of Dementia

There are several types of dementia, each with its unique characteristics:

  • Alzheimer’s disease: The most common type of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of cases. Symptoms include difficulty remembering recent events, apathy, and depression.
  • Vascular dementia: Often occurring after a stroke, it’s the second most common type of dementia. Symptoms include impaired judgment or ability to plan and carry out tasks.
  • Lewy Body dementia: Characterized by the presence of Lewy bodies (abnormal clumps of protein) in the brain. Symptoms include changes in thinking and reasoning, confusion, and alertness variations.
  • Frontotemporal dementia: A group of diseases characterized by the progressive degeneration of the temporal and frontal lobes of the brain. Symptoms include changes in personality and behavior and difficulties with language.
  • Mixed dementia: A condition in which a person has more than one type of dementia. The most common combination is Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.


Effective communication becomes increasingly challenging as dementia progresses. Here are some tips:

Patience & Flexibility

When it comes to caring for a parent with dementia, patience is important. Their behaviors and moods can shift without much warning, so try to remain adaptable and adjust to their evolving needs and abilities. 

It’s important not to hurry them or put pressure on them, as this can cause unnecessary stress and agitation. Remember, maintaining a calm and relaxed demeanor can make a world of difference in their comfort and well-being.

Establishing Routine

Creating a consistent daily routine can provide structure and familiarity for both you and your parent. Stick to regular mealtimes, activities, and bedtime routines. Predictability can help reduce anxiety and confusion for someone with dementia.

Seeking Support

Caring for a parent with dementia can be emotionally and physically taxing. It’s essential to seek support from family members, friends, or support groups. Don’t hesitate to ask for help when needed, whether it’s for memory care or respite care, emotional support, or practical assistance with caregiving tasks.


While caring for a parent with dementia can be a rewarding experience, it can also cause stress and caregiver burnout. This can manifest in feelings of fatigue, irritability, and even health problems.

That’s why it is important to invest in your self-care as a caregiver. Take time for yourself, and maintain a healthy lifestyle by making sure you’re eating right, getting regular exercise, and setting aside time for proper rest and relaxation.

Learning to accept what you can’t change and focus on what is within your control will save a lot of stress, too. Seeking support from others by joining a caregiver support group or seeking professional help if life becomes overwhelming is also important. It’s okay to ask for help and take breaks when needed.

Legal & Financial Planning

As dementia progresses, it’s essential to address legal and financial matters early on. This may include establishing power of attorney, setting up advance directives, and managing their finances. Consult with an elder law attorney to make sure that you have the necessary legal documents in place.

Safety Precautions

Safety is paramount when caring for a parent with dementia. Make modifications to the home environment to prevent falls and accidents. Consider installing safety devices such as handrails, grab bars, and alarms. Ensure that medications are stored securely and supervise their administration when necessary.

Maintaining Quality of Life

Despite the challenges that come with dementia, there are still plenty of opportunities to create meaningful interactions and moments of joy by focusing on maintaining your parent’s quality of life.

Engaging them in activities they enjoy is a great way to do this. Maybe they love listening to music. You could create a playlist of their favorite songs or artists and spend an afternoon just enjoying the tunes together. If they’re up for it, you could even have a little dance party!

Going for walks can be another wonderful activity. Fresh air and a change of scenery can do wonders for the mood. Plus, it’s an opportunity to engage with nature, point out beautiful plants or birds, and get a bit of exercise as well.

Reminiscing about past experiences can also bring a lot of joy. Looking through old photo albums, sharing stories, or even visiting places they used to frequent can spark memories and provide comfort.

Remember, it’s not just about keeping them occupied, it’s about connecting on a deeper level and enhancing their self-esteem and well-being.

A woman kissing her mother on the cheek in a park

Navigating the Dementia Journey with Compassion & Resilience

Caring for a parent with dementia is a journey that requires patience, compassion, and resilience. By educating yourself, seeking support, and prioritizing self-care, you can navigate this challenging terrain with grace and dignity. 

Cherish the moments of connection and focus on enhancing your parent’s quality of life as much as possible.

Remember that you are not alone, and seeking help from healthcare professionals and support networks, such as Fox Trail Memory Care South River can make a difference in the quality of life for both you and your parent. Come visit us to see how we can help.

Written by Barbara Putnam

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