Being responsible for the care of a parent or loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia can be uncertain at best and anxiety-inducing at worst. Given the ever-changing nature of these conditions, family caregivers often find it difficult to identify when the time has come to make decisions about memory care.
Let’s look at how family caregivers can start to determine when your loved one needs specialist senior care, and some things you can do to help them in the meantime.
How Can You Assess Senior Care Needs?
Keeping track of a loved one’s ability to manage activities of daily living is a great way to keep tabs on how their needs are progressing. It can also indicate the areas in which they need the most support, allowing you to tailor appropriate elder care.
What Are Activities of Daily Living?
Activities of daily living (ADLs) are the things everyone needs to do each day to stay healthy. These might be basic activities of daily living (BADLs) or instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). Where BADLs are simple, fundamental tasks like eating, getting dressed and moving around the home, IADLs cover more complex activities like running errands, grocery shopping and effective communication.
With ADLs in mind, here are four key areas to consider when thinking about elder care for your loved one living with dementia.
Many seniors start to struggle with moving around as they get older. Mobility is especially important as it can have a direct impact on other vital ADLs, like dressing, personal care, food preparation and getting out into the community. If your loved one has been staying at home more, has experienced a fall, or if they have unexplained bruises, these could all be signs that their mobility is declining.
If you’ve noticed your loved one has recently developed a new body odor, has unkempt nails and hair, or is experiencing dental issues or incontinence, this could indicate that they’re no longer managing to carry out personal care alone. Seniors with progressing dementia may become physically unable to do these tasks, or simply forget when they need to be done. Even if they remember to carry out an activity like tooth brushing or using the bathroom, the processes involved may also become difficult to execute without support.
3.Food and Eating
Are they able to get to the grocery store, buy the appropriate items, bring them home and store them correctly? Are they then able to prepare and cook nutritious meals and eat them? Food preparation is a complex process that can be particularly difficult for seniors with dementia; they may find themselves forgetting what to buy, or buying the same thing they already have at home multiple times. A senior might also forget how to cook their favorite meals, and if they struggle with mobility, walking around the store or standing to cook could be challenging, too.
The ability to take care of money is easy to overlook when considering senior care, since it doesn’t have a direct physical effect on a senior’s wellbeing. Struggling with money management is often one of the earliest signs of dementia, and it’s one that can have significant consequences if left unaddressed. If you’ve noticed your loved one has piles of unopened bills, or if they’ve recently fallen victim to a scam, this could indicate that they aren’t coping as well as they used to.
While mobility, personal care, feeding, and money management are core areas to keep an eye on, there are other things that might influence your senior care decisions, too. For example, things like your loved one’s social life, communication skills and ability to take prescription medications may also significantly impact their quality of life.
Every senior is unique, with their own preferred daily routines and priorities. When assessing how your loved one is coping, do consider their safety and practical abilities, but also consider if they’re managing to do the things that truly matter to them. While physical health is vital, so is their emotional wellbeing and fulfilment.
Moving to Memory Care
Seniors with dementia often require different types of elder care over the course of their progressive condition. Initially, if slightly reduced mobility is your main concern, simple home modifications like removing loose carpets and tripping hazards may be sufficient.
But as their needs progress, other options like residential memory care may be a better fit. Mid-to-late-stage dementia can be difficult for family caregivers to cope with alone, with seniors often becoming more easily upset and presenting with challenging behaviors like sundowning.
Specialist memory care communities can provide a safe, nurturing environment that empowers seniors with dementia to live a happy and fulfilling life for as long as possible. Professional caregivers in these facilities are well trained and experienced in communicating effectively with seniors who have conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
If you’re unsure about the logistics of moving a senior into a memory care facility in San Antonio, get in touch with a provider on your shortlist for advice. To find out if your loved one may be entitled to financial support, the National Council on Aging’s Benefits Checkup tool may be able to give you an idea (https://benefitscheckup.org).
What to Do in the Meantime
If you’re currently deciding on the best elder care plan going forward, think about the small things you can do to help your loved one. For example, you might:
- Provide them with a personal alarm so they can send out emergency alerts.
- Offer to run errands for them: getting groceries, sending mail or preparing meals.
- Take them out for coffee if they can’t get out on their own (and if it’s safe to do so).
- Provide them with notes or prompts to help them carry out personal care activities.
- Ask for your relative’s valuable input on what you can do to help them.
- Seek advice from their physician.
If you think memory care might be right for your loved one in the future, start your search early to avoid having to make a hasty decision. For more information on our memory care community at Pipestone Place and to arrange a tour, get in touch today.
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- Memory Care: How to Decide on the ‘When’ and What to Do Until Then - August 30, 2022
- Supporting A Loved One with Dementia: A Guide for Family Caregivers - July 21, 2022