Home Care Tips: Oral Care for Seniors with Dementia
Proper oral care is one of the most important elements of maintaining good overall health and wellbeing, but like most things, if you are on a home care journey with a senior who is dealing with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, making sure that she gets the correct care for her mouth can pose additional challenges. Knowing how to handle these challenges can help you to ensure your parent remains as healthy as possible while progressing through her disease.
Use these tips to help you ensure that your parent gets the oral care that she needs even as she is coping with dementia:
- Recognize issues. Oral care is something that most people learn about when they are still babies and start to do for themselves even before they enter elementary school. Because of how commonplace it is, you may take for granted that your senior cares for her mouth properly. This, however, may not be the case. Seniors in moderate to advanced stages of the disease may not remember why they need to brush their teeth, may think that they already have, or may forget how to do it all together. This can lead to serious problems including tooth decay, gum tissue decay, infections, and problems throughout their bodies. Pay close attention to your parent to detect changes in her oral care, such as bad breath, painful chewing, difficulty swallowing, resistance to eating or drinking, or simply not brushing when you instruct her to get ready for bed.
- Give clear instructions. If your senior has forgotten how to brush her teeth, giving the basic instruction of “brush your teeth” is not going to help her. Be sure that you are clear and detailed, breaking the activity down into steps that she can understand and handle more easily.
- Model behaviors. Make brushing your teeth something that you do together so that your parent can watch your actions and mimic them. This can not only help her to perform the actions, but it can also reduce anxiety and nervousness associated with a task that she no longer understands.
- Make it a routine. Most seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia thrive off of routine. The structure and predictability are calming and comforting, and can even help a senior remember activities and people more easily even if she is into the moderate to advanced stages of the disease. Establishing a set hygiene and grooming routine that involves brushing her teeth and following through with it each day will help to make her oral care just something that your parent does, even if she does not know why. Simply go through the same tasks, in the same order, at the same basic time of day so that she will get into the rhythm of the routine and learn to anticipate the activities.
Even as your parent is progressing through her disease it is important to keep up with regular visits to the dentist for cleanings and to address any issues that arise. Make sure that you are clear with the dentist about your senior’s dementia so that any necessarily modifications to the care approach can be made from the beginning rather than after your senior has already gotten agitated or upset.
If you or an aging loved one are considering elderly care in the Northern Colorado Area, please call and speak to the caring staff at Talem Home Care. Call today at (970) 299-9797.