Alzheimer’s and Dealing With Aging Parents
Dealing with a parent suffering from  Alzheimer's can be extremely stressful.

Alzheimer’s can be a very stressful on the relationship between a child and their parents. Dealing with a parent suffering from Alzheimer’s can be extremely stressful.

September is World Alzheimer’s Month. With more than 46 million people in the world living with a form of dementia, it’s time to speak out against this debilitating condition that is often ignored or hidden away. Although the elderly are revered and honored in many cultures, there’s still a stigma about having dementia. It’s not only the individual who is diagnosed with dementia who suffers, but family members who must care for this person are often under more strain and stress from dealing with a parent who is sick. If you’re taking care of a parent who has Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another chronic condition, here are some tips to help you deal with the complex issues that arise.


Dealing With Parents Who Have Alzheimer’s

  1. Give your parents as much autonomy as you can. Offer options, not orders, when possible. This shows respect for their condition and affirms their value to you.
  2. Expect anger and grief. Your parent is not only dealing with a loss of his or her own body and mind, but of authority. The relationship he or she has always had with you is changing. Anticipate anger and respond in ways that show you understand what he or she has lost.
  3. Separate the emotional dysfunction from the disease. Dealing with a parent who has dementia is hard enough when he or she forgets your name. When your mom or dad calls you by your sibling’s name, don’t assume anything from this. It’s not about who is loved more.
  4. Appreciate your helpers. Find other caregivers who can help you take care of your mom and dad. If you can’t bring in healthcare providers, find members of the community who can offer respite from cleaning or shopping to give you a break.
  5. Ask siblings for help, but remember that everyone has their own baggage they’re dealing with. Ideally, it would be great if the family came together when mom and dad were sick. Realistically, you have no idea what each person is dealing with emotionally when it comes to parental relationships. Just because you’ve worked through your issues, maybe siblings haven’t.
  6. Expect crazy from the family. Impending grief makes people do crazy things. If there’s any kind of inheritance, it compounds the situation. Anticipate the frenzy that can happen when a parent is dying. Know where you draw the line about money. Protect yourself as much as you can.
  7. Take care of yourself. Caring for an elderly parent is a time-consuming job, and it’s probably not your only responsibility. Take time for yourself and your family. Have some fun when you can. Enjoy the good days.
  8. Don’t dwell on the little things. When dad forgets the little things, don’t sweat it. Just go with it. Listen to his stories from the old days. A patient with Alzheimer’s might remember things from 50 years ago while forgetting that he took his medicine just a few minutes ago.
  9. Ask for your parents’ advice when you can. Get them to talk about their past when they are able. Take advantage of the moments and appreciate the good times.
  10. Take things slow. You’re running a marathon, not a race. Get help from the aging council in your community to help you find the right process that works.

You’re not alone in taking care of aging parents. There may not be a cure for the condition your parent faces, but there is a lot of support. Reach out to others and find assistance to help you manage your new role as a caretaker. Talk about the problems of dementia and aging in your community to let others know that they aren’t alone in their struggles. When people come together, it makes a difference.

Therapeutic Music or Music Therapy
Woman with wired headset relaxing on bed

Music therapy is indeed a powerful too. Music has the ability to calm the mind and sooth the soul.

Maybe you’ve heard the tale of King Saul in the Bible who was soothed by David’s music from his harp. There’s the old adage, “music calms the angry beast.” Every culture has rich musical traditions that are thought to have effects on someone’s mood. Following World War II, many hospitals hired musicians to work in the hospitals and formalize the practice of using music therapy. Many people use music in a therapeutic capacity, listening to favorite songs when they get off work and need a pick-me-up. Some use it at night for its calming effects.

What you may not know is how music is actually used in therapy, for patients with AIDS and HIV, in burn units, and in at-risk youth programs. Music Heals Charitable Foundation was formed to help raise awareness of how music heals. It’s a registered charity and supports many programs across British Columbia that use music to help people heal.

Music as a Healing Tool

Music is thought to help with coping skills and reduce emotional stress. Music therapists who have advanced training in music psychotherapy provide individualized sessions with patients to help them deal with life-altering diseases like cancer. Patients who have experienced traumatic brain injuries respond to music. Music therapy has been used to facilitate learning in children and youth with learning disabilities. There’s a sensory and intellectual stimulation by music that trained and certified therapists can accomplish that enriches a person’s life.

One program in the United States reaches out to active duty airmen who are on deployment. A music program is developed to foster coping skills and stress management while away from family in a high-stress situation. Those with PTSD are encouraged to use songwriting as a way of expressing their concerns. The research is continuing, because the results have been so positive.

In a case study issued by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), a six-year-old girl who could play the piano by ear was unable to interact well with others due to physical and developmental delays. She worked with an accredited music therapist and made significant progress in verbal skills, with her attention span and in her ability to follow directions. She plays the bells, chimes, autoharp, xylophone, keyboard and piano, even though she only has four fingers on each hand. The teachers at her school use her musical strengths to pull her into the group. Music therapy changed her life.

Music therapists believe that music therapy can change individuals with autism spectrum disorder, and the AMTA has made this research a “strategic priority.” There are a few studies that demonstrate the value of music therapy, but more is needed to really demonstrate the full effects. Music therapy is actually a fairly young discipline when compared to other types of psychotherapies. Music Heals is bringing this therapy to all types of vulnerable individuals in British Columbia. Although the organization only supports music therapy in the BC area, there are other opportunities across the country.

Music Therapy or Music Education

Music therapy is a recognized university degree. Only music therapy actually performed by an accredited music therapist is music therapy. Music education is very valuable, but it is not therapy. Someone bringing an instrument into a nursing home to perform might be a therapeutic and enjoyable activity for the residents, but it is not music therapy. When a credentialed therapist performs music therapy, it’s designed with a goal in mind. According to the AMTA, this therapy can reduce pain, reduce asthma episodes, and increase motor functions in patients with Parkinson’s disease. It also lessens the effects of dementia in older adults.

The research supports the use of music in many environments to promote healing. Check out Music Heals to learn more and see how music can benefit the ones you love.