Spaghetti for Breakfast: Knowing When to Pick Your Battles with Seniors with Dementia During Your Home Care Journey

By Robert D. Liken CPC, CTS, President

January 29, 2016

Home Care in Pittsburgh PA

  • home care in pittsburgh paYour mother insists that she wants to sleep in her slippers.
  • Your father asks for spaghetti for breakfast.
  • Your mother insists that you put a chair in front of the door after locking it at night because that is the only way that she thinks that it is really locked.
  • Your father only wants to wear his Hawaiian shirt collection no matter what the weather.

Being on a home care journey with elderly adults who are suffering from dementia can be exceptionally challenging. In the beginning of a care journey that has been defined by this diagnosis you may find your own emotions the most challenging. You are dealing with the thought that your parents are coping with something so difficult and trying to come up with plans for how you are going to ensure that they get the level of care, support, and assistance that they need and deserve throughout the course of their progression with the disease. As you move deeper into the experience, however, you will find that these challenges change and you must always be prepared to handle them in the way that is right for your seniors and their chances at a healthy, happy, safe, and comfortable future.
For many family caregivers, one of the most difficult challenges that they face is knowing when to pick their battles with their parents. They might come up with what seem to you like strange ideas of the world around them and insist that you go along with them on these ideas. They might want to change elements of your routine or do things in a different order than you think is right. Your first inclination in these situations might be to correct them or to try to put things back the way you think they should be, but this might not always be the best course of action. Knowing when to pick your battles will help to reduce stress, ease anxiety, and ensure that your care efforts are as effective as possible.
Try these tips to help you learn to pick your battles when on a care journey with elderly adults with dementia:

  • Step out of your shoes. People often recommend that in order to be compassionate to those around you, you must put yourself in their shoes. This is not really an option when you are caring for seniors with dementia because you cannot really understand what they are going through. What you can do, however, is step out of your own shoes. This means accepting that your parents are seeing the world differently than you are, but that does not mean that they are wrong. Be willing to be flexible and accepting of what they are experiencing


  • Evaluate the threat level. Sometimes you will encounter a battle with your parents that you know that you need to win, such as if your father really does insist on going out into the snow in only his Hawaiian shirt. This is a matter of safety and health. Others, however, are not as important and do not really pose any threats to your parents. If your mother really wants that chair in front of the door and it does not become a source of fear and unrest, go ahead and do it for her so that she can feel more confident, and if your father wants spaghetti for breakfast, just think of it as an energy boost to start his day


  • Think of them first. It may be easier to establish a routine and keep it in place at all times than it is to try to change things all the time, and you may feel more comfortable doing things the way that you always have or the way you think that you should, but when you are caring for your parents it is important that you think of them first. Remember that your seniors are not trying to be difficult or cause you more challenges. There is a reason that they want to do the things that they mention, even if it is not clear to you, and when it is safe and healthy, allowing them to do what they think is right can help to reduce stress and anxiety, diminish the chances of negative behaviors, and support better mental, emotional, and cognitive health throughout their journey.

If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring home care in Pittsburgh PA, please talk to the caring staff at Liken Home Care. Call (412) 693-6820 or (855) 856-0551.