How to Cope With a Parent With Dementia: A Helpful Guide

Caring for a parent with dementia requires patience, support, and self-care. Learn practical tips on how to cope with a parent with dementia and find helpful resources.

Caring for a parent with dementia can be huge. The roles keep changing as the illness grows. But there are ways to make them feel safe, loved, and happy during this tough time. We’ll look at what dementia is, give tips for care, and share where you can find help.1

Dementia involves issues like memory loss and trouble with talking or solving problems. As your parent changes, so does your role. This part can be really hard, and you might feel sad, upset, or lost.2

How you talk to your parent matters a lot. Be upbeat and clear, keep things simple, and be a good listener. Doing this helps them feel part of things and that you understand.1

Taking care of them well means being flexible and kind. Try to see why they’re acting up and help them shift focus. This caring approach can calm them down.1

Getting help from family or friends is key. Or you can reach out to pros for guidance and a break. Support groups are great for sharing stories and feeling understood.2

It’s important to create a home that feels good and is safe. Keep them moving, thinking, and doing things they love. Eating well and drinking enough also matter a lot.3

Don’t forget about yourself. Watch for signs of stress and get help if you need it. As dementia moves forward, think about what kind of care they might need later too.2

Though it’s hard, with the right mix of care, understanding, and help, you can still be close and make life better for your parent. By staying connected, keeping their sense of self, and finding joy together, you can face dementia’s challenges and support your loved one through it.3

  • Adapt your communication style to reassure and involve your parent with dementia.
  • Manage challenging behaviors with flexibility, compassion, and understanding.
  • Seek help from family, friends, and professional caregivers to provide support and respite.
  • Create a safe, comfortable environment and encourage physical, cognitive, and meaningful activities.
  • Prioritize your own self-care to prevent burnout and plan for long-term care needs.

Understanding Dementia

Dementia is not one specific illness. It’s a group of symptoms. These symptoms affect memory, language, and the ability to solve problems. In 2014, five million U.S. adults had dementia.4 It is more likely to happen as we get older, but it’s not a normal part of aging.4Dementia varies from person to person. Yet, common signs are memory loss, trouble recognizing loved ones, and not being able to manage time. People may also find it hard to speak, act differently, need more help with daily tasks, and have mood swings, including aggression.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a term for certain symptoms affecting the brain. It leads to problems with remembering, talking, and solving issues.4 Many times, those with dementia walk about without a clear goal. This wandering can start for reasons like being bored, the effects of medicines, or just trying to satisfy a physical need, for example, hunger or thirst.5

Causes of Dementia

Dementia has many causes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common one, causing 60 to 70% of cases.4 Other frequent kinds include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia.

Symptoms of Dementia

Dementia has different stages, each with worsening symptoms. How fast these stages happen can differ. Signs include memory loss, not recognizing friends and family, and having trouble with time. People may find it hard to speak, act in new ways, need more help with daily life, and have changing moods, sometimes being aggressive.4

The Emotional Impact of Caring for a Parent with Dementia

Caring for a parent with dementia is a mix of comforting moments and emotional hurdles. The dynamics with the parent change as their health does. This shift and the added caregiving responsibilities can be quite challenging.6 Finding out the true cause of their parent’s symptoms brings some ease. Yet, feelings of sadness, frustration, or inability to help may linger.6

Around 70-80% of those with dementia will feel deep emotions like sorrow, shock, or relief.6 After a diagnosis, some find relief or are more clear about their future plans.6 But, others might start battling depression and anxiety, needing either talk therapy or medicine.6

People with dementia might overreact, change moods quickly, become easily irritated, or lose interest easily. This greatly affects many of those caring for them.6 They may also feel insecure and lose confidence, affecting their self-esteem and friendships.6 Showing support, praise, and helping them connect with others can boost their mood.6

Online forums are a great way for both carers and those with dementia to share stories and feel a sense of community.6

Taking care of a family member with dementia can really take a toll on the caretaker’s health and happiness.7 The carer might feel a mix of frustration, fatigue, and stress.7 It’s hard juggling the care with daily chores, kids, and a job.7

Many carers often feel guilty when they compare themselves to others, thinking they should do more.7 It’s key for carers to seek help so that they don’t feel overwhelmed or alone.7 Guilt can root from various reasons, such as not managing stress well or from making tough choices.7

See also  What Condition Causes Irreversible Dementia?

Looking after their physical health helps carers’ mental health too. Eating well and staying active can make a big difference.7

Over 15.5 million caregivers spend more than 17.7 billion hours taking care of elderly with dementia in the USA.8 The care these people provide is worth over US$220.2 billion, without being paid.8 Caregivers pay an average of US$5,431 each year from their pocket.8

Daughter caregivers face a high risk of compassion fatigue because they see their parents suffer while managing their own busy lives.8 This risk is lower for wives.8 There’s not much study about this issue for people caring for elderly relatives at home.8 A review of 168 studies found significant differences between spouses and adult kids as caregivers. The study showed adult children tend to be more employed, female, and care for older family members.8

emotional impact of dementia caregiving

Effective Communication Strategies

It’s hard to talk to a parent with dementia, but changing how you talk can help a lot. Showing a happy mood with your face, voice, and how you move can make your parent feel good.1

Set a Positive Tone

Avoiding loud noises and keeping focus can start your talks well.1 Look at them and say their name. Talk slowly and use simple words. This way, they understand you better.1

Ask Simple Questions

It’s best to ask yes or no questions.9 Avoid making them choose too much.9 This makes talking less confusing and frustrating for your parent.9

Listen with Patience

Wait calmly for their answer, and listen for what they really mean. Pay attention to how they feel. Watch their body language too.1 This helps you get what they need and give the right support.1

Change how you talk and focus on being positive and caring. Your parent will feel more valued, known, and cared for.1910

Managing Challenging Behaviors

If your parent has dementia, it’s key to be flexible and understanding.11 Instead of fighting their behavior changes, try to get why they act this way. Being patient and realizing the reasons behind their actions makes things easier.

Recognize Triggers and Patterns

Some things trigger your parent’s behaviors, like the time of the day or their surroundings.12 By spotting these triggers, you can deal with challenging behaviors better. Caregivers who understand what causes these behaviors are more prepared to handle them.

Distract and Redirect

If your parent gets upset, try to change the topic calmly or move them to a different place.13 Connect with them emotionally before trying to shift their attention. This method can calm them down and stop things from getting worse.

Involving Others in Care

As we care for our parents, we might need more help over time.14 It’s okay to ask for help. They could ask family, friends, or neighbors to step in. They could help by checking in on their parent and helping with their needs.

They could also hire someone for in-home care. This might include a companion or a caregiver.14 This help gives caregivers time to focus on their own health and have a break, too.

Seek Help from Family and Friends

Many in the U.S. care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia.14 Joining clinical trials can offer support and resources.14 Caregiving can feel isolating and stressful. It’s important to ask for help and suggest ways others can help.7

Explore In-Home Care Options

Healthy eating and staying active are key for those with Alzheimer’s.14 Meditation can be beneficial for both caregivers and their loved ones.14 It helps reduce stress, anxiety, and sleep problems. The NIA and the CDC provide many valuable resources for caregivers.14

The Eldercare Locator and VA Caregiver Support Programs also give assistance. They offer self-care tips and tools for both caregivers and veterans.14

how to cope with a parent with dementia

Caring for a parent with dementia can be very stressful. But, there is help available. Caregivers can get free counseling, call 24/7 helplines, and find resources to make a plan.4

Caregiver Support Resources

The Family Caregiver Alliance helps with finding care and asks the right questions. This is to make sure you get the best help.4 Caregivers can use free counseling, get respite care, join support groups, and use online tools to find more help.4

Respite Care

Taking a break with respite care can help a lot. It gives caregivers time off to take care of themselves.1 People caring for those with dementia are at a higher risk. It’s really important for them to use good communication skills. This can lower stress and make life better.1

Support Groups

Support groups are great for sharing stories and getting advice. They help caregivers and their loved ones feel less isolated.1 Many people with dementia have symptoms like not being able to speak well. That’s why it’s key for caregivers to connect with others who understand.1

See also  What Qualifies a Dementia Patient for Hospice Care?

Creating a Safe and Comfortable Environment

Making sure the home is safe and comfy for a parent with dementia is key. It involves adding handrails, taking away things that cause trips, and keeping dangerous stuff safe. This work makes the living space safer for them.14

Home Safety Modifications

Finding and fixing hazards in the home is crucial for a parent with dementia’s safety. It means putting up grab bars in the bathroom. Also, getting rid of rugs or cords that could make them fall, and locking up cleaning supplies or sharp tools. This helps keep them safe.14

Minimizing Clutter and Distractions

To make the home more comfortable for a parent with dementia, reduce clutter. Take away things not in use and keep away busy patterns on items like curtains or rugs. This cuts down distractions, making the space feel calming and familiar.14

By doing these changes and keeping clutter and distractions low, caregivers support their parent’s well-being. They help make a comfortable and secure place for them to live. This promotes a better quality of life.144

Encouraging Activity and Engagement

Living a lively life is key for those with dementia. Caregivers can boost the well-being of their loved ones. This is by mixing exercise, brain games, and activities that matter into their day.

Physical Exercise

Going for walks is good for the person with dementia and their caregiver.15 It keeps them healthy and fit. Walking helps with balance, muscle strength, and heart health. It’s also a chance to be with others and think deeply.

Cognitive Stimulation

Brain games and chit-chat keep the mind sharp and happy.16 Classics like Guess Who? and Battleship make memories and thinking sharp. Even simple tasks like folding clothes can make them feel useful and valued.

Meaningful Activities

Finding what they love, like hobbies or old friends, can really make their day.15 They might enjoy cooking together or going through photo albums. Something creative, like painting, can really be a mood lifter. These activities can bring back memories and make them feel accomplished.

Adding varied activities daily helps those with dementia stay active and happy. It’s all about keeping them busy and involved. This work makes their life better and more fulfilling.

Nutrition and Hydration

Making sure the parent with dementia eats a lot of healthy foods is key.17 It’s good to give them choices and keep mealtimes steady.17 It’s crucial they drink enough to avoid dehydration, which worsens their condition.18

Healthy Meal Planning

For those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, a mix of foods is best. This means veggies, fruits, grains, low-fat dairy, and lean meats.18 Including foods high in nutrients like greens, berries, nuts, and spices helps the brain.19 Plus, using colorful dishes makes meals more appealing for those who struggle to see colors.19

Encouraging Fluid Intake

Keeping someone with Alzheimer’s hydrated can be tough. Tasty fluids and juicy foods are a good strategy.18 Having smaller meals more often is great for them. It keeps their blood pressure steady and their eating experience positive.19 This approach is also beneficial for those who find it hard to swallow.19

Caregiver Self-Care

Caring for a loved one with dementia is hard on the heart and the body.20 It’s vital for caregivers to spot signs of stress and burnout. They need to look after themselves by finding ways to relax or by getting help.20

Managing Stress and Burnout

Recognizing stress and burnout symptoms early is crucial for caregivers.14 They can start by adding relaxation into their day, like deep breathing, meditation, or light exercise.14 Getting counseling also offers great advice and coping methods for both the emotional and the practical sides of caregiving.14

Taking Breaks

Taking regular breaks prevents burnout.20 Caregivers can take time off through respite care, doing activities they enjoy, or just by carving out me-time.20 Enjoying hobbies, spending time with loved ones, or going for a walk can refresh the caregiver.20

Seeking Professional Support

Getting help from professionals is important.14 Caregivers should consider counseling or joining support groups. These steps aid in dealing with the emotional and daily challenges of caring for someone with dementia.14

Long-Term Care Planning

When dealing with dementia, caregivers must think about long-term care. They should look at care choices, benefits, and legal needs.21 Caregivers need to make sure healthcare and money matters are clear.

Financial and Legal Considerations

Caring for someone with dementia is expensive. Caregivers should check out financial help like insurance and support programs.21 It’s also important to have legal papers ready, like power of attorney, to follow the parent’s wishes.

Exploring Care Options

As dementia gets worse, caregivers might need to look at different care settings. These could be at home, in assisted living, or nursing homes.2122 It means thinking about what the parent needs now and in the future.

See also  The 7 Stages of Frontotemporal Dementia: A Helpful Guide

Getting care at home keeps the parent in a place they know. Assisted living lets them be more independent, but they still get help. Nursing homes give constant medical care for those with severe dementia.22

Finding the right care should involve the parent, if they can, and family. Health experts can also help. This way, you can find the best and loving choice.2122

Fostering Meaningful Connections

As dementia advances, it’s vital to help your parent stay connected and feel known. One key method is through reminiscing and storytelling.23 This approach uses their deep memories and life tales. It makes them feel valued and understood, despite their fading memory. Doing this strengthens your bond and reminds them of their dignity.

Creating joy moments is another great strategy. Doing things that make your parent happy can brighten their life.23 This includes their favorite hobbies, small wins, and finding meaning in everyday activities. Focusing on what’s good helps your parent find happiness and satisfaction in your shared moments.

Anthem Memory Care homes show the success of such activities. They focus on meaningful tasks for those with dementia.23 This shift has led to less medication, better behavior, and happier staff.23 These connections significantly improve the well-being of those in their care.

Therapies like music, art, and reminiscence also work wonders.24 They provide mental and emotional benefits by keeping the mind sharp and forging a deep bond between carers and their loved ones.

Embracing reminiscing, storytelling, and joy can transform your relationship. It enriches their life and makes your caregiving more rewarding.2324


Caring for a parent with dementia is both deep and tough. Yet, with the right help and a loving touch, caregivers can still share a close bond. It’s vital to care for yourself, get help from others and seek support from professionals. By doing this, caregivers can handle the challenges and find happiness in their role.25

The stress of dementia care can be a lot. However, it’s crucial to know you’re not on your own. Spotting signs of stress early and managing your health helps caregivers stay strong. This way, they can offer the best care to their loved one.25

Learning to deal with a parent’s dementia means showing love, adapting, and staying true to your bond. Change how you communicate, make a safe place, and involve your parent in things they love. Caregivers can keep their parent’s dignity and joy, even as dementia takes its toll.26


What is dementia and what are the common types?

Dementia is a term for memory and thinking issues that affect daily life. It includes Alzheimer’s, causing most cases. There’s also vascular, Lewy body, and frontotemporal types.

What are the typical symptoms of dementia?

Dementia shows up as forgetting things, not recognizing people, losing time, and trouble talking. Behavior and mood also change, sometimes with anger.

How can I effectively communicate with a parent who has dementia?

Talking with a parent who has dementia can be improved by staying upbeat. Paying full attention and speaking clearly helps. Simple questions and being patient are key.

How can I manage challenging behaviors in a parent with dementia?

To handle tough times with a parent who has dementia, be flexible and loving. Watch for what makes them upset. Then, try to change the topic or activity to calm them.

What type of support is available for caregivers of a parent with dementia?

Family, friends, in-home help, and support groups offer aid to caregivers. They provide chances for a break and sharing stories with others in the same situation.

How can I create a safe and comfortable environment for my parent with dementia?

Making the home safe, neat, and quiet helps. Familiar things and a peaceful setting reduce confusion and stress.

What activities can I engage my parent with dementia in to maintain their wellbeing?

Keep your parent active with exercise, mental challenges like puzzles, and hobbies they love. It gives them joy and keeps their mind and body in shape.

How can I ensure my parent with dementia is properly nourished and hydrated?

Plan meals with foods that are good and easy to eat. Stick to regular meal times. Encourage drinking, as dehydration makes symptoms worse.

How can I manage my own stress and prevent caregiver burnout?

Know the signs of stress and burnout, and take care of yourself. Get time off, do things you enjoy, and if needed, talk to a counselor or join a support group.

What should I consider when planning for my parent’s long-term care needs?

Talk about future care options in advance. Sort out financial and legal concerns. Make sure their health and money issues are thought of. This ensures they get the care they need.

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