What do you do when you notice that your parent has become a new person?
The calm, loving and caring mother or father is replaced by someone who mixes up your names, accuses you of stealing his key, and insists to go to work, though he has been retired for over 20 years.
In the book title “When your parent becomes your child,” American journalist Ken Abraham describes the changes he noticed with his mother.
The memory loss, the decline in physical health, the poor hygiene and the unhelpful attitudes.
When he took his mother to the doctor he was told she has dementia, a diagnosis that changed her life — and the whole Family's life forever.
The author described how he initially dismissed the changes in his mother's behaviour as “due to old age”. This is a form of denial, a psychological trap family members often fall through when they are faced with such a situation.
After all, how do you accept that your parent is no longer the same person and that the condition he has will change him further sadly, there is no cure.
The journey Ken and his siblings went through was not easy as he witnessed his mother becoming more dependent on others in the simplest things such as having a wash, changing her clothes and eating a meal.
“It was heartbreaking to see how she went from someone who always takes pride in her looks to someone who needed to be persuaded to shower and eventually fed with a spoon, it felt like she was becoming my child.”
Dementia is a brain disorder that affects the elderly and the risk of developing it increases as we age.
Most people are familiar with the term “Alzheimer’s disease” which is a progressive condition where the person experiences gradual memory loss, and personality changes and exhibits difficult behaviours such as aggression, agitation, or sad mood. Although Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, other types must be considered as patients’ needs differ significantly.
At present there is no cure for dementia and currently available medications can slow the progression of the disease and if prescribed early, can help the person maintain his independence and have a better quality of life.
Almost all people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias end up needing full care which is provided by a caregiver who is often the spouse or the daughter or son.
This can be a very challenging task even with the most caring people. Having to deal with a person that he may not recognise you or even worse, believe that you are up to harm him.
Some families employ a formal caregiver who looks after the basic needs of the person while the family members provide psychological support.
September is world Alzheimer’s month. It’s the time to build awareness about Alzheimer’s and other dementia and acknowledge the difficult emotions people with dementia and caregivers go through.