Caring for a Demented Loved One: Unfiltered Real-life Struggles

Beautiful Mind blog is lucky enough to feature this article written by Jamie Cheng. You can check out more information  about her here. The article she wrote is very interesting. It gives you insight into a world that not everyone knows about,  but some have to go through. Please read,  and let her know your thoughts on the subject by commenting!

Many people see that it isn’t a big deal or something that should be recognized. Instead, it is a duty as a daughter or son to take care of our parents, no matter what obstacles may come our way.

But, people have never seen what happens behind closed doors; the unsaid expectation of filial piety discounts the actual grit that we have to undergo which goes unseen.

This is an unfiltered real-life struggle of a caregiver for a demented loved one.

Struggling with Dementia

I’ve always understood Dementia as forgetfulness or finding it hard to recall something in short-term. Dementia is more than that – beyond loss of memory, beyond difficulty in remembering.

Dementia entails several symptoms that can affect one’s quality of life, and also the caregiver’s too.

A few early signs of Dementia are:
memory problems, particularly remembering recent events
increasing confusion
reduced concentration
personality or behaviour changes
apathy and withdrawal or depression
loss of ability to do everyday tasks

As time passes, these signs get more severe and obvious even to the less observant individuals. It is always good to be aware and take note of the signs early in the process to intervene as soon as possible.

Why does one get Dementia?

Dementia is the result when one’s brain is attacked by diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, introduction of Lewy Bodies in the brain, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease, etc.
Source: Dementia Care Central

The causes of dementia can be categorized into four classifications – cerebrovascular, infection-related, toxic and metabolic, and traumatic.

Cerebrovascular Causes

Cerebrovascular causes refers to the blood vessels of the brain. Cerebrovascular causes of dementia are strokes – ischemic or hemorrhagic. The former is by blockage and the latter is due to rupturing of a blood vessel.

Infection-related Causes

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a…

Wait, what is that?

Also known as “mad-cow disease”, this infection attacks the brain and causes a result of a hastened progressive degenerative form of dementia. They are basically harmful proteins that reforms or, deforms the existing healthy proteins in your brain to another shape.

This would eventually lead to the brain developing tiny holes – like a sponge – eventually leading to the entire brain enveloped by this devastating protein. Thus, the entire body goes downhill, and death follows.

Oh… damn.

Toxic and Metabolic Causes

Alcohol – toxic liquid to the body – can cause vitamin b1 deficiency that is a cofactor of the Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. This syndrome comes along with memory loss and cognitive deterioration.

Traumatic Causes

Traumatic causes of dementia would be from the more severe cases of hits and bumps on the head. Head trauma can result in amnesia for the more severe cases, emotional changes when the part of the brain in control of emotions and self-control is injured, and cognitive ability decline when the parts of the brain in-charged of executive functions is affected.

Stats on Depressed and Overworked Caregivers of Demented Loved Ones

A study in 2003 shows that 32% of caregivers of demented loved ones reported to have 6 or more symptoms of depression, with majority of them being younger individuals in USA.

32% might seem like it’s a small number but that literally means it’s more than 1/3 the sample size!

Pictograph of the number of caregivers depressed in the study in 2003 (32% depressed).
Made by Jamie Cheng

In the growing population of 4 million people in America, exceeding 70% of dementia-diagnosed individuals are cared for by their own family members. Numbers puffs up to 40 to 79 hours a week for caregiving to their beloved yet hard-to-handle family member.

The average number of working hours for a full-time working adult is only 40 hours. Yet, a full-time caregiver’s minimum hours of caregiving exceeds the 40-hour mark.

Another study that is more recent done in 2017 shows that 14.9% of caregivers were diagnosed with clinical depression.
The severity of depression in their numbers are as follows:
Mild depression: 43.2%
Moderate depression: 20.3%
Moderate-severe depression: 6.8%
Severe depression: 3.6%

A Short Case Study

During my course in pursuit of my higher certificate for Therapy Assistant, I got to hear the life stories and manifestos of my colleagues whose ages were similar to my parents (I’m 21 this year and my parents are around 50+).

One of them in particular shared about what made her change her job from a high-paying luxury handbags sales person to an inspiring humbling therapy assistant.

It was filial piety and love for her mum who suffers from severe dementia.

Driven to be the best daughter no matter what obstacles may come her way, she laid it all down and became a student again at the age of 46 to know the right way of caregiving and therapy for her mum.

She shared about the throes of taking care of her mum which includes giving her all and tending to her needs, yet having her own dear mum forgetting who she is. Or having the need to ensure that her mum is coaxed during the evenings when the sundown syndrome is at its peak – every single day.

I can imagine doing this for a day but every day – that’s an entirely different story.

I’m glad that she is able to handle all of the stress with the help and support from her husband and sister.

Advice to All Caregivers of Demented Family Members

1) Be open to get help
You don’t have and shouldn’t do this alone. Be strong and self-aware. Find reliable and trusted support from other family members, friends, or even professional help.

2) Don’t be too hard on yourself
Taking care of a loved one with dementia is a 24/7 job – like 7-11. A robot that works continuously would breakdown eventually, what more a human body?
When you feel like you need a break, find a way. Don’t feel bad about it. You need to take care of yourself to ensure your loved one is taken care of to the best as well.

3) Break out of the mundane
Although it is known that people suffering from dementia would prefer to not be constantly introduced to new things, why not try reminiscing by going to a familiar place, eating food that he/she can vividly remember?
To us, it may seem like a sudden change but to them, it’s like the warm spot of water that snugs them back into comforting and happy memories.

Author: Jamie Cheng
“Now, it’s Our Goal.”

Jamie Cheng is a health enthusiast with a background in nutrition, health and wellness. She doesn't just write sentences, she creates stories that sell. She's notorious for helping health businesses accelerate in leads and sales with laser-sharp website copy.


  1. Thank you Serena! It such an honour to have my piece here on your blog.


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