signs of dementia

How to Convince Your Loved One to Seek Help for Dementia

Offering help to someone who may be in denial about their memory problems is a common issue among caregivers. Here’s how you can convince your loved one to see a doctor about their memory loss.

by Hannah Grey

Talking about dementia is never easy, especially when someone in the family is on the verge of losing their ability to think, remember, and make decisions in their daily activities. While having that conversation is already a struggle in itself, having an elderly parent refuse professional help is another story. 

In this piece, we’ll take you through the different factors you need to consider when convincing an older parent—from the signs to take note of, reasons why older adults may refuse treatment, and how to successfully convince them to receive the care they need. 

Noticing the signs: how to identify when a person needs help 

Before diving into the different ways to approach this delicate matter, let’s take a look at the subtle symptoms to look out for that indicate early signs of dementia. These warning signs could be cognitive changes, psychological changes, as well as a combination of both. 

  • Memory loss or subtle short-term memory changes 
  • Difficulty concentrating and focusing 
  • Frequent mood changes 
  • Confusion with time or a familiar place 
  • Difficulty carrying out normal routine tasks 
  • Misplacing things frequently or putting them in strange places 
  • Failing sense of direction and difficulty with spatial and visual abilities 
  • Asking questions repeatedly and forgetting the answer that was just received 
  • Lack of coordination when it comes to basic motor functions 

While these symptoms start as mild, they could potentially become more severe when untreated and as time goes by. Be sure to keep an eye out for these things. 

For a complete overview of the symptoms, types, and stages of dementia, click here

If you need help looking after a loved one with dementia, Homage offers home care services at affordable prices on demand, without a need to commit upfront to high costs. Our home care services include:

  • Daily Living Care from $20/hour
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  • Home Medical from $20/hour
  • Home Therapy from $180/hour

Find out how we can personalise our packages to suit your caregiving needs. Book a Free Consultation with our Care Advisors today!

Why would a person with dementia refuse treatment? 

In a 2017 analysis of National Health and Aging Trends Study data conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, 45 per cent of Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 to 74 had probable dementia or required help with at least one activity of daily living (ADL) but still received no professional assistance. 

Let’s explore some of the most common reasons why persons with dementia may refuse treatment. 

1. Lack of understanding of their condition  

Some symptoms associated with early-stage dementia include difficulty reasoning and increasing confusion. With that, it’s common for patients to not understand the changes that are happening in their personality, behaviour, and actions as a result of their dementia. When you don’t understand your condition in its entirety, it’s only natural for one to refuse treatment or have reservations about it. 

2. Denial of health issues due to fear of diagnosis

They say ignorance is bliss but not when it comes to healthcare. As much as some seniors would like to avoid the topic of dementia and the possibility of receiving professional care, the signs would eventually manifest in their lives one way or another, which explains why many older adults dread diagnoses. 

The moment you receive a diagnosis, your treatment plan starts. Once your treatment begins, that’s when it’ll take a toll on your finances. From money issues to feeling like a “burden in the family”, this is why denial is common among most persons with dementia. 

3. Genuine disbelief in the severity of their case

Since most dementia patients lose their ability with reasoning, they may not understand the severity of their condition just yet. In their minds, it could simply be mild signs of forgetfulness that comes with ageing. But in reality, the symptoms could be much worse. Similar to being in denial, most dementia patients struggle to even accept their condition, let alone understand how critical it may have gotten. 

4. The feeling of being forced into something

Regardless of age, no one likes being forced to do something, right? Sometimes seniors who end up receiving dementia care feel like they’re being forced into getting help against their own will. They often associate this succumbence to losing their sense of freedom and independence.  

As much as you’d have to deal with stubborn and unreasonable elderly parents who refuse to receive help, there may be a certain level of reasoning behind their decision. Perhaps they simply cannot find the right words to express how they’re feeling or feel a hint of shame about receiving dementia care. Take the time to understand their reasons to find a middle ground where they can receive the appropriate care needed while still preserving their dignity. 

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Common areas where Dementia patients would refuse help

Food 

As their brain function declines, dementia patients often struggle when eating due to a variety of reasons. Some of these include poor appetite, food aversions, losing the ability to chew or swallow safely, and even finding difficulty when using cutlery due to the lack of specific motor skills. 

When preparing meals for a family member with dementia, your priority should shift from making something delicious to something they can consume with ease while still receiving the necessary nutrients. 

Here are a few ways to help seniors with dementia during mealtimes to increase their appetite: 

  • Incorporate sweet flavours into their meal for them to distinguish flavour. 
  • Offer one type of food at a time instead of filling up a plate with too many options.
  • Give them ample time to finish their food. Certain patients may forget they are eating in the first place, which explains why they would need more time.  
  • Cook meals that don’t require the use of utensils like a fork and knife, which may potentially hurt dementia patients. 
  • Always test the food temperature before serving. When certain foods are too hot, persons with late-stage dementia may have trouble with pain and temperature processing
  • Be aware of their mood changes and refrain from forcing them to eat if they don’t feel like it. 
  • Create a relaxed atmosphere during mealtimes and eliminate any sources of noise that may trigger or distract the patient. 

Medication 

Just like food, persons with dementia may refuse certain medications as well. This could be a response to having forgotten what it is for, feeling confused about what they’re being asked to do, or simply losing control over their life. 

Feelings of resistance are completely normal and as caregivers, it is essential to understand and practice patience when convincing our elderly loved ones to take their medication. To manage their medication intake in the best way possible, consider these methods: 

  • Don’t force it and be patient with them. 
  • Avoid reasoning and use short sentences to persuade. 
  • Gently reiterate the importance of medication and how it can help them. 
  • Create a quiet and calm environment where they wouldn’t be overwhelmed. 
  • Be aware if they’re experiencing any side effects from the medication. 
  • Look out for things that may overstimulate them or trigger feelings of distress. 
  • Make pills easier to consume if they have trouble swallowing their medicine.  
  • Remove any supplements or medication that aren’t necessary.   

Hygiene and personal care 

Most people with dementia find it difficult to accept help as basic personal hygiene is a private routine activity just like for anyone else, regardless of whether they’re a senior or not. Having someone step in to help them with something as private as personal hygiene can make them feel like they’re losing their sense of self and be a cause for discomfort. 

Facilitate a smoother transition for your elderly loved ones by adapting to their routine and asking them what they’re most comfortable with. Another thing to note is how persons with dementia are far more prone to accidents, incontinence and having difficulties in the toilet as a result of fine motor skill disability caused by the disease. Always prioritise their safety by installing the necessary assistive devices such as grab bars, bath chairs, and handheld shower sprays. 

How to convince your elderly loved one to seek help for Dementia 

After discussing the signs and the common reasons why one would refuse treatment, we’ve now come to the most challenging part: putting in the work. But just because it’s a challenge doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Below are a few ways to approach the situation delicately and effectively, to yield the best outcomes and solutions for them in the long run. 

1. Choose your words carefully

There’s no easy way to tell an elderly loved one that they need professional dementia care. But there are ways to ease into it, without leaving them confused and overwhelmed. Choosing the right words and how to present the situation at hand is key. Tread lightly, avoid power struggles, and always focus on the positives. 

2. Acknowledge and understand how they feel 

As much as it is essential to receive the immediate care they need, this is still a massive transition for them. Having to accept that you are slowly losing parts of your memory and the way you function is no easy feat for anyone. 

On top of that, being told you need to seek professional help for dementia isn’t something you can grasp in a day and simply move on. Before making any major decisions, give them time to accept the gravity of the situation and ensure that any feelings that may arise for them are validated. 

3. Understand their behaviours

To understand the behaviours of an elderly parent living with dementia, families need to cultivate a safe and judge-free environment where they can express what they’re feeling with ease. By encouraging an open dialogue about dementia care, families can then identify the root cause of their elderly parent’s behaviours and find the right solutions that would best suit them from there. 

If your senior parent still feels apprehensive about opening up, don’t push it. Instead, observe their actions and ask yourself these questions: 

  • Do they have misconceptions about dementia that are influencing the way they respond? 
  • What are some things they are afraid of when receiving help for dementia? 
  • Are they worried about losing their independence or sense of self? 
  • Are they acting out of habit or are they just overwhelmed? 
  • Are they suffering from feelings of anxiety or depression? 
  • Are they trying to communicate something with me through their stubborn behaviour?

4. Ask them simple questions 

Naturally, they may not be completed onboard just yet but make it a point to include your elderly loved ones in the conversation. Discuss the next steps as a family and allow them to have a say in the way they’d prefer to receive the care they need and if they have any reservations. Some questions could be: 

  • How comfortable are they with receiving care from a healthcare professional? 
  • Would they prefer being taken care of by a family member? 
  • Would they prefer to receive care at a facility or at home? 
  • What are they still able to do without help and which areas in their activities of daily living (ADLs) do they need assistance with? 

These simple questions can get the ball rolling and pave the way for more extensive and deeper conversations that families need to have.

5. Present them with options 

In today’s day and age, there is a wide variety of options for the elderly to receive dementia care depending on their personal preferences and needs. From assisted living facilities, daycare centres to home dementia care, explore the different options together and discuss which ones they would prefer. 

Including them in the narrative will make them feel like they have some control over the decisions being made and help them regain a part of themselves at the same time. 

6. Continue to treat your elderly parents with dignity 

Yes, you may have taken on the role of being the primary caregiver for your senior parent. But Former Director of the Center of Aging, Dr Robert Kane emphasises how children should avoid infantilising their parents. The last thing persons with dementia want is to be treated like a child by their own children. 

At the end of the day, your senior parents still want autonomy despite the circumstances. Treating them like a child can lead to feelings of resentment and negative effects on their emotional and mental well-being, which may cause their dementia to worsen. Living with dementia doesn’t mean that older folks are less intelligent or worthy of respect. Be patient, take it slow, and make every effort to preserve their dignity as older adults. 

Receive quality Dementia care, right at your doorstep 

It’s extremely challenging to prepare for something as chronic as dementia as it can be taxing on all fronts; emotionally, mentally, physically as well as financially. The good news is you don’t have to navigate this tough time alone. Dementia may be something we cannot stop or control, but we have the chance to choose the care options that best suited our elderly loved one’s needs. 

From mild-stage to advanced-stage dementia, our Homage Care Professionals are committed to supporting seniors at every stage of their care journey. Depending on your care needs and preferences, we provide a comprehensive list of dementia care services that include home therapy, nursing care, companionship, and staying active. 

Book a free care consultation today to find out more about how we can help your elderly loved one age with dignity, in the comfort of their own homes. 

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References
  1. Fletcher, P. D., Downey, L. E., Golden, H. L., Clark, C. N., Slattery, C. F., Paterson, R. W., Rohrer, J. D., Schott, J. M., Rossor, M. N., & Warren, J. D. (2015, November). Pain and temperature processing in dementia: A clinical and neuroanatomical analysis. Brain : a journal of neurology. Retrieved December 14, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4620514/
  2. Fletcher, P. D., Downey, L. E., Golden, H. L., Clark, C. N., Slattery, C. F., Paterson, R. W., Rohrer, J. D., Schott, J. M., Rossor, M. N., & Warren, J. D. (2015, November). Pain and temperature processing in dementia: A clinical and neuroanatomical analysis. Brain : a journal of neurology. Retrieved December 14, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4620514/ 
  3. Grey, H. (2021, August 25). A guide to seniors’ mobility and enabling fund (SMF) in Singapore. Homage. Retrieved December 14, 2021, from https://www.homage.sg/resources/seniors-mobility-and-enabling-fund/ 
  4. Grey, H. (2021, December 3). Activities of Daily Living (ADL) in Singapore. Homage. Retrieved December 14, 2021, from https://www.homage.sg/resources/activities-of-daily-living-adl/ 
  5. Grey, H. (2021, November 16). The 7 stages of dementia: Early, middle, late dementia symptoms. Homage. Retrieved December 14, 2021, from https://www.homage.sg/health/dementia-stages/ 
  6. Tan , J. H. (2021, November 16). Dementia 101: Symptoms, types, stages, treatment and prevention. Homage. Retrieved December 14, 2021, from https://www.homage.sg/health/dementia/ 
About the Writer
Hannah Grey
Hannah is an all-around creative with a flair for travel and photography. She also only has her coffee black, which should be the only way to drink it.
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