Q: My mother was recently diagnosed with dementia, and I feel like we are both struggling with the reversal of roles in our relationship. Do you have any advice on how to work through this transition?

-KS

Answer: There are many physical and cognitive changes that occur as an individual ages. Most often these changes cause a reversal in familiar family roles — where the child feels like they take on a more “parental” role to their parent. This change can cause conflict and confusion. Though not an easy task, acceptance of the situation is the key phrase to focus on when confronting this challenging dynamic. Below are a few tips that may make the transition easier:

  • Respect their situation. Remind yourself daily that your loved one cannot help what is happening to him or her.
  • Let them take the lead. If possible, do the tasks alongside your parent rather than doing it for them. While this approach might take longer than doing it yourself, it preserves their independence and dignity.
  • Ask what they need help with. Let your dad tell you what aspects of a particular activity he needs your help with, and if possible, try to limit your assistance to just those things, at least for now.
  • Let go of the past. Work to improve or at least maintain the relationship you have with your parent. This will require letting go of past feelings and emotions that may still be lingering. If this is too difficult, seek assistance in understanding the situation.
  • Spend time with your parent learning about their past. Understanding their past can have a positive effect on understanding who they are today.
  • Take a look at your needs. Don’t neglect your self-care. Caring for another requires care for you first.
  • Attend a support group. They can help family members understand what is happening to their parent.

For more information on this caregiving topic, visit www.agingcare.com.

Q: As I’ve gotten older, spring seems to cause my allergies to act up more. I would rather not take an allergy medication on top of all my other prescriptions. Is there anything that can reduce my allergy symptoms other than medication?

-ML

Answer: Older adults are just as likely as anyone to be affected by allergies when spring blooms appear. However, allergies can have a greater impact on older adults, and should therefore be treated quickly. Symptoms such as a congested nose and an irritated throat can be especially concerning to a senior who has pre-existing cardiovascular problems. This is why when the traditional signs of a runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing appear, you should consult a doctor.

Antihistamines, the medication normally prescribed to treat allergies, may lead to complications when interacting with some medications commonly prescribed to seniors. Ask your doctor if a nasal steroid or some form of topical medication is a good idea for your situation.

Here are some things you can do to keep your home free of allergens and minimize the impact of allergy season on your daily life.

1. Keep the outside world from coming in by always removing your shoes before entering.

2. Watch out for indoor mold that can collect in the dishwasher, refrigerator pan, air conditioning system, or other items made of wood, paper or cotton that sit in water for too long.

3. Carpet collects dirt and dust easily. Area rugs should be shaken out and vacuumed regularly. When cleaning, always use a non-toxic cleaner, and remove excess books, magazines and other clutter from your sleeping area to reduce dust buildup. You can also use an air purifier to remove a large percentage of allergens in the air.

4. A pillow that is three years or older is likely holding dust mites. Get a new, hypoallergenic pillow with a case that you can take off and wash, and wash the pillow twice a year.

5. Many fruits can cause symptoms similar to grass or tree pollen reactions. If you are sensitive, place the fruit in the microwave for 10 seconds to deactivate the proteins, and avoid eating the peel.

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AgeWise is a weekly column compiled by staff of Senior Services Inc., a nonprofit organization in Winston-Salem. If you have a question, email agewise@seniorservicesinc.org or mail to Senior Services, 2895 Shorefair Drive, Winston-Salem, NC 27105.

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