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What can I do to better prepare myself for dealing with a dementia parent?

Answered by David Troxel

June 26, 2014

What can I do to better prepare myself for dealing with a dementia parent? I feel I need anger management classes. There are so many things that are said that are incorrect. I feel bad correcting everything. I know I am angry because my “Dad” is gone!

Welcome to the caregiving club. Any of us who have been in your shoes have made lots of mistakes and sometimes one cannot help but a bit angry at the universe.

I think it’s important to work on empathy and acceptance. Think about this analogy. If your dad had a broken arm, you could see the cast. You wouldn’t be angry for him because he couldn’t put on his sweater. With dementia, in many ways, his brain is “broken.” You can see some very visible examples of this if you Google images of PET scans and Alzheimer’s. You can literally see whole areas of the brain not lighting up.

I hope that this first step will begin to help you understand that his situation is real and to become a bit less reactive to him and his “mistakes.”

I also recommend finding a good caregiver support group. Meeting people who have gone through the same thing can be powerful and they will give you lots of tips and coaching.

My own book for families on caregiving may help you travel your journey. It’s called, A Dignified Life: The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s Care. The book (co-written with Virginia Bell) has lots of practical advice to help you recast the relationship.

If after these steps, you still feel frustrated and angry, it’s okay to admit that you may just not be a good caregiver for your dad. Seek out other resources including in-home help or residential care to give him the best quality of life possible and to give yourself a break.

Thoughts and stories from others

  1. December 16, 2014 at 12:51 pm
    Posted by Diane

    My Mom 83, a widow, diagnosed with Alzheimers, moderate stage in May, 2013.The Dr.'s said she couldn't be left alone or handle medications or finances. Rather than a nursing home, my hubby & I brought her to live with us the end of that year.We live several states away from her home. She wants to go home. Doesn't understand why she can't. Life is hard.Most days we cope pretty well. It is heart rending to see her slip away little by little. Some days I don't think I can do this anymore. She' s very forgetful, confused & often uncooperative. I get 5 hrs. respite most weeks.
  2. July 11, 2014 at 02:49 pm
    Posted by Helen Clark

    The first thing you have to realize that this condition is not their fault. They did not choose to be this way any more than you would. Allow yourself to feel angry, just don't take it out on them. Vent to a trusted friend or other family member. Accept help whenever it's offered or find help if it's not. YOU can't do it all.
  3. July 10, 2014 at 10:45 am
    Posted by Cindy R

    I just found out this week through testing that my husbands memory issue is due to beginning dementia. The neuropsychologist has told us there is no way to know how fast or slow it will progress. It is a very frustrating experience he has good days and bad days. I try not to stress or worry but the uncertainty of what lies ahead is very scary.
  4. July 3, 2014 at 03:10 pm
    Posted by Patty Galipeault

    My husband has alzhelmer's.
  5. June 30, 2014 at 11:30 am
    Posted by Laura

    My mother in law has Alzheimer's, we care for her twice a week to give my brother in law and his wife a break. My husband and I are both disabled so we really can't take her for long walks anymore, but even when she could she was always saying "let's go home" and then we are home she says " let's go" if we tell her we just went or were not going anywhere she starts calling us the B word... For which we now say thank you instead of "don't cuss" hoping she we'll stop saying it. Hitting and wetting the bed are also issues. HELP!

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