Preparing for Alzheimer’s and Dementia care
Authors: Doug Russell, L.C.S.W., Tina de Benedictis, Ph.D., and Joanna Saisan, M.S.W. Last updated: March 2016.
As you come to grips with an Alzheimer’s or another dementia diagnosis, you may be dealing with a whole range of emotions and concerns. You’ll no doubt be worried about how your loved one will change, how you’ll keep him or her comfortable, and how much your life will change. You’ll also likely be experiencing emotions such as anger, grief, and shock. Adjusting to this new reality is not easy. It’s important to give yourself some time and to reach out for help. The more support you have, the better you will be able to help your loved one. While some of these tips are directed specifically at Alzheimer’s patients, they may equally apply to those with other types of dementia as well, including vascular and mixed dementia.
Early-stage Alzheimer’s care preparations
There are some Alzheimer’s care preparations that are best done sooner rather than later. It may be hard to consider these questions at first, as it means thinking about a time when your loved one is already well down the road of his or her Alzheimer’s journey. However, putting preparations in place early helps a smoother transition for everyone. Depending on the stage of diagnosis, include the person with Alzheimer’s in the decision-making process as much as possible. If their dementia is at a more advanced stage, at least try to act on what their wishes would be.
- Who will make healthcare and/or financial decisions when the person is no longer able to do so? While a difficult topic to think about, if your loved one is can express their wishes, getting them down on paper means they’ll be preserved and respected by all members of the family.
- Consider meeting with an elder law attorney to best understand your options. You’ll want to consider power of attorney, both for finances and for healthcare.
- If your loved one is not able to make decisions, you may need to apply for guardianship/conservatorship.
- How will care needs be met? Sometimes family members assume that a spouse or nearest family member can take on caregiving, but that is not always the case. Caregiving is a large commitment that gets bigger over time. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, loved ones eventually need a higher level of care to help maintain quality of life and assistance in delaying the progression of the disease. We find that good communication is essential to make sure that the needs of the Alzheimer’s patient are met, and that the caregiver has the support to meet those needs.
- Where will the person live? As the disease progresses, making decisions on where your loved one will live is essential. Is his or her own home appropriate, or is it difficult to access or make safe for later? If the person is currently living alone, for example, or far from any family or other support, it may be necessary to relocate or consider a facility with more support. Many times memory care communities such as Pathways Memory Care are designed specifically for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and related dementias. We understand your concern about the health and safety of your loved one. You worry that they may not take their medications properly, suffer a serious fall, or experience a health emergency with no one around. Many times a memory care communities can provide the right amount of assistance with the appropriate amount of balance independence.