What to Do if a Parent is Diagnosed With Dementia

We all become forgetful with age. But if your mom frequently forgets recent conversations, is unable to answer simple questions, and/or often seems confused, she may be suffering from dementia. So, what do you do next? Here are some suggestions:

Get a definitive diagnosis. Before you begin planning for dementia care, you need a definitive dementia diagnosis. Since there’s more than one type of dementia (e.g., Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, Huntington’s disease), you’ll need to know which type you’re dealing with in order to develop a plan of care.

Start with a visit to your mom’s primary care physician to rule out any illnesses, allergies, or medication reactions/interactions that could be causing the dementia symptoms. Once other medical issues have been ruled out, ask for a referral to a Kansas City dementia care specialist.

Educate yourself. Look to appropriate organizations (e.g., Alzheimer’s Association, Lewy Body Dementia Association) for educational resources related to your mom’s dementia diagnosis. Also learn communication techniques and things not to say to someone with dementia. Look for activities that will engage your mom and allow you to spend more quality time with her.

Identify support systems. Who will you be able to contact to help with caregiving, appointments, and/or respite? Do you have siblings nearby who are willing to help? Friends? Neighbors? If your mom is a church member, does the congregation offer any formal or informal assistance? Do you attend a church or live in a community where people might be willing to lend a hand?

Ask for what you need. Write down a schedule of what you need and when. For example, do you need someone to help run errands? Take your mom to appointments? Help with house cleaning or meals?  Visit with your mom while you take an afternoon off? Distribute the list to those who have agreed to help and request volunteers. Update and redistribute the list periodically.

Get outside help. If you don’t have friends, family, or neighbors to help you care for your mom, or if you’re beginning to feel overwhelmed, enlist the help of a Kansas City home health agency that specializes in Alzheimer’s and dementia care. A good home care agency can help with things like bathing and grooming, cognitive games, transportation, meal preparation, light housekeeping, and more.

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