How Will My Relationship with My Parent Change as Their Dementia Progresses?
It can be difficult to become accustomed to the diagnosis of dementia as an adult child of an aging parent. You may feel as though your roles have suddenly swapped and are now unnatural, as though you must step up to become their parent or caregiver. At the same time, you likely have never dealt with dementia head-on before and might be unsure what the diagnosis even entails. It’s normal to be frightened of what the future holds, especially how it can potentially change your relationship with your mother or father.
Although you will still face challenges no matter how prepared you are, you won’t be blindsided by the changes to come if you take the time to familiarize yourself with the disease and become more aware the changes your parent will face: emotionally, physically, and cognitively, over time.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term and not a specific disease. The blanket label “dementia” describes a group of degenerative brain disorders in which a person loses a variety of abilities that comes to a point where it impedes their and daily life. Their abilities decline until they can no longer function independently and they lose all cognitive function, including their memory, ability to understand and use language, solve problems, and make decisions. Among other losses, their relationships inevitably change, particularly with any adult children they have.
How You Can Be Prepared for Changes in Your Relationship with Your Parent Who Has Dementia
You’re sure to feel a great deal of frustration, loss, and profound feelings of sorrow upon learning that your parent has been diagnosed with dementia. As their health declines, you may even feel displaced anger at your parent, too, as though they have abandoned you once they can no longer recognize you. This is normal, even though you logically recognize it is not their fault. You may feel extreme guilt in that you think it would be easier if your parent had passed away rather than face the fact that they are only present in the same body but are not present in their right mind with the same vibrant personality they once had.
You may feel burdened, too, if you were the person who stepped up and took responsibility for your parent under these circumstances. This is particularly true if you have siblings or your other parent cannot or will not take charge. The resentment and frustration you feel can compound feelings of stress, worry, and guilt once you realize that caregiving is a burden for you.
How to Withstand Suffering Ambiguous Loss and Grief When Your Parent Has Dementia
Unlike conventional grief, such as when a parent dies and you can clearly wrap your head around the fact that they are no longer physically or emotionally present, but the same cannot be said with a parent who has dementia. This is what is called an ambiguous loss, because your parent is only physically present, but emotionally absent, because at some point they will no longer recognize you. As your parent’s cognitive function declines to the point where they can no longer carry on a meaningful conversation, your grief may be complex. But as their dementia progresses, your loss might feel just as profound as if they were no longer in your life at all. With each passing visit, the grief you feel may be amplief each time you see your parent as you watch them slowly decline.
You can vent and discuss your grief with like-minded individuals, though. By speaking with a counselor, chatting with other adult children of parents with dementia on online message boards , or joining in-person or online support groups, which would give you the opportunity to share your grief and learn how to cope with your feelings of loss.
Know that Your Relationships with Friends and Family Members Will Also Likely Change When a Parent Has Dementia
Unfortunately, many loved ones, even your own siblings, may pull back once your parent is diagnosed with dementia. Other close friends may hesitate or worry they won’t know what to say to you, as they don’t understand what dementia is, or they may not want to accept the changes that are occurring to your parent if they have a sentimental attachment to them. You can initiate contact with these individuals, if you wish, to communicate that while you appreciate their concerns and understand their hesitancy to stay in touch, you would still value their support during what is a challenging time for you.
Consider In-Home Caregiving from Experienced Aides Experienced and Familiar with Dementia
Our in-home caregivers from At Home Healthcare are compassionate, understanding experts who know how adult children of parents diagnosed with dementia feel as if they are watching their parents gradually deteriorate. It’s difficult to witness and it can lead to fatigue and burnout without enlisting respite care. That’s where we can help. Our in-home caregivers provide skilled assistance and respite care to adult children and their loved ones diagnosed with dementia so they can age in the peace and comfort of their own home. If you are interested in our services or would like a consultation, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.
To contact At Home Healthcare to discuss in-home caregiving for a parent who is diagnosed with dementia, contact us at (877) 959-9093 today.