By: Jackie Witges, R.N., B.S.N., C.M.C., C.D.P.
When you loved one is diagnosed with dementia, you may feel it would be preferable to have a family member take care your loved one at home. But this may not be the best situation for all involved. Guilt from making a promise that “I will always keep you at home,” may be why you want to keep your loved one at home. Being a caregiver for someone with dementia is stressful and can be detrimental to your health as well as theirs. The stress on the caregiver, even a close family member, is one of the most difficult issues faced by family when a loved one is diagnosed with a dementia related illness. It is extremely taxing, mentally, physically and emotionally to provide care around the clock. Here are some signs and questions to consider if an alternative care setting for your loved one is the best placement instead.
- Safety. Is the home still a safe place for your loved one and the caregiver? Has there been an increase in falls, episodes of agitation and aggressive behaviors, more frequent wondering where your loved one gets into locations and unsafe places in the house?
- Are you suffering from sleep deprivation? Are you constantly worried and have an interrupted sleep pattern because you are worried about your loved one staying safe and not wandering around the house?
- Is the hygiene of your loved one or you in question? If your loved one is resistant to grooming and bathing? In many ways, nurses and C.N.A.s are equipped with the skills to continue keeping a person with dementia clean. Memory care units and nursing homes are equipped with handicapped bathrooms to help assist with the bathing process. If your hygiene in question because you are fearful or have increased anxiety that you are not able to leave your loved on unattended while you take a shower.
- Have you experienced social isolation? Has increased anxiety and depression lead to the loss of engagement in meaningful activities in your life because you are afraid of leaving your loved one alone or with another caregiver?
- Have you had problems keeping medication administration consistent? Do you miss a dose because you are also running your household?
- Weight Loss. Are you or your loved one losing weight because it is hard to keep up with food habits?
- Does your loved one suffer from frequent UTI’s? It is difficult to make sure your loved one takes care of their incontinence issues because it might be embarrassing for all involved.
- Does your loved one suffer from dehydration? Are you struggling with making sure your loved one gets enough to drink during the day?
- Is your loved one having skin integrity issues? Do they suffer from extreme bruises, skin tears, or pressure areas?
- Do you have the inability to keep up with general housework? Is it hard to keep to keep with home maintenance, the repairing of appliances, increasing piles of clutter that add to your stress and anxiety?
- Neglect. It is not easy to ask, but as the caregiver, is the word neglect running your life? That you feel like you are neglecting many parts of your life because all you worry about is caring for your loved one and keeping them at home?
While not willful, sometime caregivers hit a point where they are unable to provide an appropriate level of care for their loved one and it becomes time to look for a different care setting. This is when it is time to look at the possibility of a memory care assisted living or nursing home placement.
When the family has made the decision to look at different living situations, finding a safe and secure environment with care providers who understand the unique needs of someone with dementia is priority one. You want to look for care environments with a reputation of quality care. Talk to other friends and family who have had to navigate this same type of difficult decision. Talk to your loved one’s primary care physician. Its okay to look into alternative placement and waiting until a crisis is typically not the time to so. Having a plan for when and if alternative placement is needed can provide for peace of mind. Quality of life for everyone will improve and you can enjoy the time left with your loved one.