December 29th, 2010 at 3:12 am
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When a Loved One Has Dementia: Sharing Observations for Future Planning

by Kathryn Kilpatrick, M.A. CCC/SLP

During the next few weeks, after family and friends have spent time with a loved one with dementia, it is likely that there will be conversations about how things went. Each person may have a different perspective and certain friends or family members may also have specific concerns depending on their level of involvement.

One of the first steps is to begin gathering the input of all of these people after everyone is back into their routines. Those who may have traveled a distance with the person with dementia will have some observations others may not have experienced. Some people may be more tuned into the disease process and able to offer an important perspective. Often certain details will be more noticeable to some and not others. If family members have been away for a while, they may notice more of a change. Others may not understand what is happening, and some just prefer to maintain a certain amount of distance to the situation.

Nothing, however, is more upsetting than when conflict surrounds the discussions and the focus on the needs of the older adults gets clouded with less important issues or previously unresolved conflicts. Hopefully, over a period of time, some of these difficult situations can eventually bring people together as more information is shared and resources are explored. Whatever the case may be, it is important to set the rules for any discussions. It should include respectfully listening to what each person has to offer. The focus should be on obtaining whatever information might help in keeping a loved one safe while enhancing the quality of their life.

Consider taking these details and presenting a summary to all involved including the health care professionals. This can be a very helpful resource that can be periodically updated with new observations and concerns. Often someone, particularly in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, handles a short medical appointment with a familiar person without any obvious red flags. Your information may provide some helpful observations for more appropriate planning.

Hopefully, once everyone has shared their concerns, some recommendations can be made and options explored. Depending on the level of functioning of the person with dementia, it may be appropriate to offer them some choices. One family, noting dad’s forgetfulness was now leading to a poor diet and forgetting to pay bills on time, suggested one of the son’s help with the bills and that they hire someone to come in several times a week to prepare meals and provide some companionship. At first he declined but once their father did agree, he was actually pleased.

Now this family will be more tuned into the fact that they need to be more attentive to various aspects of the overall situation. This successful plan eventually had everyone working together with dad’s best interests in mind. It definitely laid the groundwork for future conversations as they were needed. For additional refer to Aging Parents: Do These Changes Mean Something? Part 1 and Part 2.

“Now join your hands, and with your hands your hearts. ” William Shakespeare

Posted in Alzheimer’s, Caregiving, Dementia, Support | No Comments »

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