3 Things to Seek Out When Your Parent Is Diagnosed with Dementia

Lisa Fields
Added: 06.24.2022
5 minutes read
Once your parent is diagnosed with dementia, you may want to do everything you can to help them. Are there some things that could be beneficial, but people don’t often think of them?

We asked eldercare experts what they would recommend to someone whose parent is newly diagnosed with dementia. They suggested two items that may keep parents with early-stage dementia safer at home and one idea that may benefit your well-being. Read on for their advice:

In-Home Tracking Technology
Courtney: StackCare
If you don’t live with your parent but you want to make sure that they’re following their usual routines – not lying in bed all day or wandering outside – an app like StackCare may help you keep tabs on your parent without invading their privacy.
“There are some really cool, innovative technology devices out there that are becoming a game-changer in helping people age in place,” says aging life care manager and licensed occupational therapist Melissa Swiontek, OTL, ALCM, founder of the Oregon-based Passionate Healthcare Advocacy & Wellness.

Instead of using invasive cameras and microphones to track someone’s presence, the system uses door sensors and body-heat sensors to determine a person’s location within the home. 
“There are tiny sensors that go on the doors, so you can tell how many times someone went to the bathroom at night or if the front door opened at any time,” Swiontek says.
Initially, the system tracks your parent for a few days to recognize their typical habits as they move about their home. If they normally get back into bed after using the bathroom at night but one night, they don’t return to the bedroom, you’ll get an alert on your phone: Real-time data can be shared with you and other relatives via an app.
“That can really help to give you that peace of mind when it’s just a mild cognitive impairment and Mom’s still living at home,” Swiontek says.
A Fall-Alert Necklace
Courtney: Stanley Healthcare
When your parent with early dementia is still able to live independently, you may worry that they could slip in the shower or trip going down the stairs. Subscribing to a fall-alert system may provide a simple way for your parent to seek help, should they become incapacitated.
“Wearing a fall alert around your neck that you can push if you need help for anything is valuable, if they can remember to use it; it’s not too complicated, but you never know,” says geriatrician David Hackethorn, MD, an assistant professor of internal medicine at Texas A&M Health Science Center in College Station, Texas. “You have to simplify everything that they’re doing in the home [after a dementia diagnosis]. They probably [can’t use] an iPhone, unless they’ve been doing it a while, [so consider] a fall alert. [If they] can’t even handle that, that’s when you begin to think, ‘Well, maybe they need to be in a facility or have somebody in the home.’”
A Dementia Caregiver Support Group
After your parent’s dementia diagnosis, you probably spend a lot of energy worrying about and caring for them, but it’s also important to care for yourself. Looking after a loved one with dementia can be emotionally and physically taxing, and you may feel that you can’t talk to your friends about the experience. Joining a support group may provide you with the outlet that you need.
“I think it’s very important to be around others who know what it’s like for you and to get their wisdom and their support,” says Craig Borchardt, PhD, assistant professor of humanities in medicine at the Texas A&M University College of Medicine and CEO of Hospice Brazos Valley in Bryan, Texas.
If you’re hesitant to join a dementia caregivers support group because you don’t want to do something solely for yourself, consider that your participation may also benefit your parent.
“Being involved in those groups, that’s where ideas about things [to keep parents safe] are shared,” Borchardt says, “because caregivers are very creative, and they have a lot of initiative.”