When an elderly parent has been diagnosed with dementia, their child might find themselves in the role of a caregiver. The amount of assistance your parent requires will certainly vary, but they'll need more and more help as their condition progresses. You will find that you will need to assist them with a number of aspects of their self-care, and this includes their dental care. What can you expect?
A Lapse in Oral Health
Although dementia itself doesn't cause any direct dental issues, the simple act of dental neglect can cause problems. As dementia progresses, straightforward things such as memory, logic, and rational thinking can be compromised. This means that someone with dementia can potentially experience dental problems as their condition has resulted in them forgetting to maintain their oral health, and they will need your help to remember the importance of this.
The primary assistance you can offer is to remind your parent to brush and floss, and if necessary, this reminder might need to be given each day. This will be sufficient in the early to medium stages of dementia, but in the later stages, your parent might need physical assistance with cleaning their teeth. Cleaning someone else's teeth is different from cleaning your own, so it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with the best technique.
It's almost a certainty that your parent will need assistance with visiting the dentist. They might forget the need for regular dental checkups, and being proactive can be beneficial. You might want to contact the dental office on their behalf to make an appointment, and to transport them there. Meeting with the dentist is unlikely to be complicated in the early to medium stages of dementia, but it can be a different matter when their dementia is advanced.
Potential Complications at the Dentist
Someone with advanced dementia might not understand the purpose of a dental appointment, and this can lead to distress and resistance. This can get in the way of them receiving adequate care. If this should become an issue, talk to the dentist about the possibility of sedation during their appointment. It's not a case of giving your parent general anesthesia to render them unconscious, but conscious sedation (where your parent remains awake but calm) can be helpful to ensure that the dentist is able to perform the necessary treatment.
Remember that a parent with dementia will need your assistance to maintain their dental health.