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Exploring options for your loved one with dementia


By Steve Carrier

Advisor/Owner of Assisted Living Locators

When an elderly loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, many families opt to care for them at home. This approach allows the person to experience their dementia journey in familiar surroundings.

However, dementia conditions are degenerative, leading to an inevitable cognitive decline. As the disease progresses, families will eventually need to explore options that can provide the ongoing specialized care required to support the older relative.

Memory Care is a viable choice for people experiencing dementia. These communities are staffed by healthcare professionals trained to provide specialized dementia care in an environment designed specifically for mental stimulation. Some Memory Care facilities are aligned with an Assisted Living community, while others are standalone communities or part of a full continuum of care.

However, the challenge for families is recognizing when it’s time to place their loved one into Memory Care. Here are eight signs to watch out for:

Providing care is becoming too difficult for your family

Families who choose to care for an older relative who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease are selfless, noble, and admirable. However, as the condition progresses, the person will eventually require 24-hour care. Providing care around the clock can become taxing on your mental and physical health, leaving you feeling depressed and exhausted. You might also start becoming disconnected from your family, friends, career, and pursuits you enjoy. Plus, if your health becomes adversely affected by the increased responsibilities, your ability to provide adequate care can become diminished. 

When you find yourself at this point, it’s time to consider placing your loved one in Memory Care. Many Memory Care facilities provide 24-hour care by specially-trained staff who can provide the best support for your relatives. You can still be involved in their healthcare plan while still having time for yourself.

Your relative is getting harder to handle

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can cause severe behavioral changes in older adults. Confusion, frustration, or fear associated with cognitive decline can trigger violent or aggressive behavior, putting the person and anyone else in the immediate vicinity at risk of injury.

As the behavior progresses, it might be time to consider Memory Care. Their staff is fully trained to provide progressive, empathetic support to de-escalate situations and keep the older adult safe and content.

Your older loved one is becoming increasingly disoriented in their home

Most homes aren’t built for people living in cognitive decline. People with memory impairments often need to live in smaller, cozier spaces with optimal lines of sight that allow them to easily read their environment. If the pathways or edges in their living area aren’t designed for easy navigation, your loved one could become disoriented, confused, and frustrated.

Memory Care apartments are custom-designed specifically for people with memory impairments, allowing for easy navigation and familiarity.

The person isn’t taking their medication properly

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are cognitive conditions affecting memory, creating a risk of not taking medications or taking the wrong dosage. The health consequences of mismanaging medications can be severe. In Memory Care, trained staff manage your loved one’s prescription and over-the-counter medications, ensuring that the proper dosages are taken at the correct times.

The older adult tends to wander

Wandering is a common occurrence among people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Older people who wander put themselves at risk of getting lost or injured, especially if they get behind the wheel of a car. Wandering can happen at any time of day or night, no matter how much you secure their home. You can’t safeguard against wandering 24-hours per day, so when this becomes an issue, you should consider placement into Memory Care. These communities are equipped with enhanced security features, both inside the apartments and at all entry/exit points of the community, ensuring that residents are safe and accounted for at all times.

Your loved one is ignoring their hygiene

People with progressive cognitive impairment often begin neglecting their hygiene. They may forget to bathe, brush their teeth, wash their hair, or dress properly. Toileting might also become difficult, exacerbating hygiene issues. Family members might be uncomfortable helping an older relative in these areas, but Memory Care can help. Trained, professional staff in Memory Care can assist your loved one with bathing, toileting, brushing their teeth, dressing, and more. Their goal is to keep residents feeling fresh and comfortable while preserving their dignity and self-respect.

Your older relative isn’t accessing proper nutrition

Even if your relative has cooked their entire life, they might lose the desire to prepare healthy meals as their cognitive decline progresses. They might simply forget to eat or begin losing the skills necessary to operate in the kitchen safely. Memory Care communities offer their residents diverse, brain-healthy menus that focus on nutrition. Meal options are customizable to their dietary preferences, nutritional needs, and religious requirements. Along with three nutritious meals every day, residents enjoy several snack options.

There is a lack of engagement

People with impaired cognitive abilities may not be as responsive as they once were. If they’re not properly engaged, they might become bored or frustrated, leading to behavioral problems.

In Memory Care, residents are stimulated with safe and effective techniques and therapies that exercise their brain, keeping them happy and entertained while slowing the condition’s progression.

Always remember that placing a loved one in Memory Care doesn’t mean you failed as a caregiver. It’s an act of love that will ensure your relative has the specialized care he or she needs, allowing you to have happy, engaging visits together.

About the Author: Steve Carrier, a Scituate resident, is a Certified Dementia Specialist and Senior Care Advisor/Owner of Assisted Living Locators Southeastern Massachusetts, a free senior placement and referral service that helps you explore and understand eldercare options. Contact him at 508-681-3016 or visit www.assistedlivinglocators.com/semass.