We would like to take a quick moment and say thank you to everyone for their support and encouragement. This is our 50th episode of All Home Care Matters and we would not be here if it weren’t for all of you. We have received countless emails, comments, and feedback from you sharing what the show has meant to you and from some of you how it has helped you in even the smallest of ways. That is why we do this show, to help families and individuals who are going through these issues with their loved ones.
When a loved one’s diagnosed with a cognitive problem, it can be devastating. In a lot of ways, watching a parent or grandparent suffer from memory loss or a change in personality feels like a devastating loss. Your parent or grandparent just isn’t the same. Still, there are ways to cope with this difficult news – and ways to maintain a meaningful relationship with your parent even once they have lost their memory or are suffering from other cognitive difficulties. Today, we’re going to talk about how to cope with a loved one’s diagnosis – so you can have the tools you need to get through this period together.
First of all, keep in mind that you and your parent are not alone. According to the CDC, 1 in 9 adults suffer from subjective cognitive decline in their older years. This most commonly occurs in the form of Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, or a brain tumor. Stroke victims also often face cognitive difficulties.
With a diagnosis, often comes a major lifestyle change. Dementia patients, for instance, will usually require constant care and may need professional assistance in the home or have to move into a long-term care facility or nursing home depending on their circumstances. It can be devastating to watch a parent go from living independently to needing full-time care fairly quickly, while you are still trying to make sense of their diagnosis.
To protect your parent and yourself during this time, it’s essential that you practice patience, compassion, and good humor. Getting angry with your parent isn’t productive – they don’t understand what they’re saying or why, and at the end of the day, all they need is your support and love. Your anger or frustration could only make them more confused. With that in mind, begin your visits with the expectation that not all days are good and that there is a chance Mom or Dad won’t be in the brightest mood today.
It’s important that you savor the good days for when your loved one has their more difficult days. If you go into the visit with this in mind, you are better preparing yourself to remain calm and rational in case of an emotional outbreak.
Now, maintaining control over your emotions might feel impossible, right? Cognitive difficulties lead to an overload of mixed feelings. You might find that you’re both heartbroken and angry when your mom lashes out. Or that you want to hug your mom as much as, in that moment, you want to get away from her. This is normal. I promise. There’ll be days where you feel frustrated, hurt, and overwhelmed – where you just want a break, even though you love your parents more than anything.
It’s so important that you allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling – without guilt. Don’t show these emotions to your parents but make room for them in the rest of your life. Make sure that while you’re caring for your parent, you are caring for yourself too. Confide in a friend or a spouse, write in a journal, go on long walks, take hot baths. The more you practice self-care, the better prepared you will be to care for your loved one. I can’t emphasize that enough. You’re much more likely to lose patience or get outwardly frustrated with your mom or dad if you are exhausted and neglecting your own needs. Self-care might sound cliché, but it’s a necessary step to caring for others.
While you’re caring for yourself, you also want to educate yourself on your parents’ new diagnosis. The more you know about what’s happening inside of their brains, the more you can be there for them – and the more you’ll know what to expect. You also might find that the information is comforting – after all, the unknown can be really scary. When you have an idea of what you are facing, less is left up in the air.
Learning about the disease is also a great way to stay in-the-know when it comes to possible new treatments or medications. Talk to your doctor about the best resources to look into and listen to their advice when it comes to how to best care for your parent.