In this new blog series, The Caregiver’s Toolkit for Alzheimer’s and Dementia, we’re offering in-depth resources for those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
It is natural for caregivers to want to provide care for their loved one within the home for as long as possible. While the reasons may vary, there are a few that are more common. For instance, caregivers may be unaware of other options or feel a sense of guilt at the thought of not providing the care themselves.
However, for most, caring for someone with mid-to-late-stage Alzheimer’s or dementia is a herculean task and one which typically requires professional assistance to manage successfully.
How do you know when it’s time for memory care – sometimes referred to as specialized care – for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia? How do you find the right care community? We’ll explore these topics in more depth below.
What to Expect in Mid- to Late-Stage Dementia
Caregivers assisting a loved one in the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s may play more of a support role than that of a full-time helper. For example, you may aid your loved one by giving cues, helping them run errands, or going to appointments.
As the disease progresses, your role by necessity will shift. Your loved one may need help bathing, eating, getting dressed, and more. Eventually, in late-stage dementia, the individual may be nonverbal, be unable to walk, and require assistance for most activities of daily living.
Even if you previously provided care for a loved one in your home, or in tandem with an in-home nurse or aide, someone with mid-to-late-stage dementia may require more extensive care than you can manage by yourself.
When Should I Choose a Memory Care Community?
Choosing to move a loved one to a memory care community is difficult and filled with emotion for everyone involved. You may feel a sense of inadequacy, guilt, or fear for the future. Some people may have made a promise to their loved one that they would never move them to a nursing home – which can further complicate matters.
Keeping your loved one’s well-being in mind will help guide the decision-making process. As a caregiver, you want what’s best for them. And sometimes the best care they can receive is in a high-quality memory care community.
If you answer “yes” to several of these questions, provided by the Alzheimer’s Association, it may be time to explore memory care options:
- Is the person with dementia unsafe in their current home?
- Is the health of the person with dementia or my health as a caregiver at risk?
- Are the person's needs beyond my abilities?
- Am I becoming a stressed, irritable, and impatient caregiver?
- Am I neglecting work responsibilities, my family, and myself?
- Would the structure and social interaction at a care facility benefit the person with dementia?
In addition to caring for your loved one’s physical needs, the best memory care communities will also provide opportunities for enrichment, social engagement, and recreation appropriate for your loved one’s cognitive level. Specialized dementia care coordinators understand the specific needs of people with cognitive diseases and will create individualized care plans to improve and enhance the quality of life.
The good news is, you have options when choosing a memory care community. Here are some practical suggestions for finding, researching, and choosing a memory care community that is right for you and your loved one’s needs.
How Do I Find a Memory Care Community?
Word of mouth is a good place to begin looking for a memory care community. Ask friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers if they have any experiences with memory care communities. Their recommendations can be valuable as you begin your search.
You can also search online for a list of memory care communities in your area. Peruse their websites and jot down your initial reactions for each one that appeals to you, as well as questions to ask later.
When you’ve identified a few communities that interest you, schedule an in-person or virtual visit to learn more about the community. Nothing is as helpful in choosing a community as visiting it yourself and getting a feel for the location, building, staff, and general mood.
Prepare a list of questions to ask the staff. Take notes and be prepared to speak up if you’re uncertain about anything. In addition to asking about what a typical day looks like and what security measures are in place, discuss the related costs – making sure you understand what is included in the fees.
Private payment (paying out of pocket) and long-term care insurance are two common ways to pay for memory care.
More Caregiving Resources
If you enjoyed this article, you may be interested in five time management tips for caregivers or how to help your loved one stay socially active. If you would like to be notified about more articles like this one, sign up for our West End Insider newsletter by entering your email address in the subscription box on the right.