Senior Caregiving for Parents With Dementia

Sep 28th, 2010 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Sometimes it takes a while for topics for this blog to formulate in my brain… and other times ideas just pop up in the course of daily living as a senior citizen and I think, I’ve got to write in SCJ about that; others must be having the same experience. 

That happened yesterday when I received a call from my sister about our father (age 95) and step-mother (almost 83).  Although Dad’s is seriously advanced, dementia hit both of them as they aged.  As is typical, Dad can remember specific times in his childhood, and recounts them over and over and over again.  However, his short term memory is shot, and he repeats himself many times because he cannot hold on to a thought more than about 60 seconds.  He knows his memory is ‘gone’ and expresses his sadness about that.

Our step-mother’s dementia is less severe; she is easily confused about facts, times, places–both distant and recent–but she has always carried the belief that she is ‘right’ and firmly holds on to that belief.  The call had to do with our step-mother’s anger (somewhat fueled by dementia) over a family dynamic about 10 years ago that she understood at the time, and agreed with,

and now her ‘reality’ has changed and she believes something occurred that, in fact, did not. 

My sister manages a big hospice program in the midwest so she has a lot of experience and knowledge as a caregiver.  We talked about how to deal with the anger, and I learned an important lesson from her.  She tried to review what occurred ten years ago with our step-mother, who was unable to hear what was being said.  My sister realized what was happening, and even though she was thoroughly frustrated with her unsuccessful attempts to communicate, she remained calm and non-reactive.  The lesson is this:  some people take in information with their ears; some with their eyes, and some people need both eyes and ears to be able to understand.  Increasingly as we age, we need both eyes and ears to be able to understand accurately what someone else is saying, and the communication needs to be delivered in a calm and considered way.  Reacting to anger with escalated emotion simply doesn’t work.

The conversation between them ended with my sister telling our step-mother they would talk about it when they were together in two weeks.   And I learned that eyes, ears and a calm voice are important caregiver communication tools.



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  1. [...] Shaw Elrod MSW Ed at the Senior Citizen Journal wrote an interesting post on Senior Caregiving for Parents With Dementia. That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of eldercareabc [...]

  2. [...] Shaw Elrod MSW Ed at the Senior Citizen Journal wrote an interesting post on Senior Caregiving for Parents With Dementia. That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of eldercareabc [...]

  3. [...] Shaw Elrod MSW Ed at the Senior Citizen Journal wrote an interesting post on Senior Caregiving for Parents With Dementia. That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of eldercareabc [...]

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