Your whole world shifts when someone you love is diagnosed with dementia.
As there is no known cure for Alzheimer's, many families wonder what they are going to do, how they are they going to provide care for a loved one who is slowly losing the memories and personality that make them the person they have always known.
There are plenty of resources available for families who have made the decision to provide in home care, but many first-time caregivers fail to understand just what that commitment entails.
Providing memory support and daily care to an adult with Alzheimer's or another dementia-type condition is going to be a major commitment, and as memory loss progresses, your parents or spouse will rely more and more on you and other family members for help getting through each day.
But as the needs of elderly parents progress, those of us who do not personally experience memory conditions ourselves often forget that caregiving has two sides.
Those receiving memory support have their own experience of care.
Stop and consider how the person who has been diagnosed feels.
In our rush to plan for all eventualities in home care, it’s all too common that we forget to think about how the person diagnosed with the condition is coping.
Your loved one—spouse, parent, sibling, friend— is going to feel vulnerable and alone. Older adults with cognitive degeneration, just like many cognitively-abled seniors, are shamed or grieved by the thought that they will be a burden on their families.
David Hilfiker, a retired physician from Washington D.C., has chronicled his own struggles with dementia, noting that:
"Isolation is a source of great pain for both the caregiver and the person with Alzheimer’s (or other cognitive impairment). This is still a disease that provokes shame; most people are afraid to speak of it or relate to it, which leaves both the person with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers alone with their disease.”
While in home care is certainly a viable option, at least to a certain point, you may want to consider if it is actually what is best for your loved one.
Should you be considering skilled nursing care?
Caregivers often find themselves feeling guilty when they so much as entertain the thought of moving their parents into a retirement home, but research has found that a skilled nursing care environment may actually help delay the progression of dementia.
Social contact with peers is an important factor in conserving memory for individuals suffering from Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, and a retirement home or skilled nursing care facility can provide your loved ones with regular opportunities for socialization.
Even if residents are not able to fully express their personal thoughts, spending time in the company of others who share their diagnosis and similar needs can help seniors with dementia to relax and enjoy life again.
In fact, seniors with dementia who participate in enrichment programs have reported less anxieties and feelings of loneliness— factors which can hasten cognitive decline.
Know what to look for in a skilled nursing facility.
Be aware that while a community may be willing to take residents who have dementia, they may not be able to provide the level of care that your loved ones will need as their cognitive decline worsens.
You want to ensure that any community or facility you consider has the kind of skilled nursing care that can provide specialized memory support to residents with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, or other dementia-type disorders.
These memory support units feature a higher staff-to-patient ratio that can provide the around-the-clock care that your loved one will need as cognitive decline progresses. They're also designed to offer a more comfortable and comforting environment for seniors with dementia.