Supporting a family member with dementia can feel just as complex as the disease itself. Figuring out your role and what support you need is crucial to being able to be there for your loved one, says national dementia care educator Teepa Snow.
In this “Ask the Dementia Expert” episode, Snow shares five ways to support your parent or relative with dementia. Read highlights below or watch the full video.
Teepa Snow: Look in the mirror and figure out what you’re good at, and what you’re not good at. Not everyone is meant to provide hands-on care support for somebody living with dementia, and yet, there are many ways to be supportive. Look at your own abilities, interests, and life.
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Figure out how this thing — supporting someone living with dementia — is going to fit. Or does it fit? Is my life already jam-packed? Am I going to do it out of a sense of duty, versus a sense of I want to do this?
No family member — no family — should try to go it alone. There’s a lot to be learned if you’re going to be supportive, and there’s a lot to be changed. There’s a body of knowledge and awareness that’s available. Families don’t need to stumble through this on their own. They should seek out support that works for them.
Four out of five families will fall apart before this is all over. That’s way too many families falling apart because of dementia, and it’s because [dementia] puts so many stressors on the system.
The third thing that can make a difference is to make sure that family members are being supported, and the family as a whole is being supported, which means the person with dementia is getting better support.
This health condition isn’t just a change, it’s a life change. It’s changing everything about a person’s life. You’re going to need legal support, financial support, health support, environmental support. This is progressive, which means it keeps changing over time.
You’ll probably need some advisors — people who understand the different kinds of dementia and progression patterns. And someone who understands some of the things in the world around: resources, places, spaces, and health issues. People living with dementia can have more than just dementia happening.
The last piece of the puzzle is finding options. Families are going to need options. With dementia, it’s better to plan for when than if. If you need options for places, care, funds, and you haven’t explored them at all, when the emergency happens, that’s not the time to be seeking things out.
Merritt Whitely is an editor at A Place for Mom. She developed health content for seniors at Hearing Charities of America and the National Hearing Aid Project. She’s also managed multiple print publications, blogs, and social media channels for seniors as the marketing manager at Sertoma, Inc.