Alzheimer’s Care – When Its No Longer Possible To Live At Home

Tuesday, August 02, 2011
By Mr. Noah Kaminer, Administrator

As Alzheimer’s progresses, the physical and mental demands on the caregiver will increase dramatically and eventually become overwhelming. Physical tasks like bathing, dressing, and assistance with toileting will eventually require total assistance. The level of supervision required will also increase with time as the Alzheimer patient begins to wander off, incapable of finding their way back home. At some point, they will require 24 hour supervision and care.

While some families may be able to get extra help, such as home health aides and respite workers, once the health and safety of either the caregiver or the Alzheimer’s patient is compromised, it may be time to consider other options.   Moving your loved one into a long term care facility is not a sign of weakness, nor does it mean the end of your involvement in their life. Quite the opposite, you should still stay actively involved in their care and visit regularly – you will just share the responsibilities with a qualified facility and feel secure that your loved one will be in a safe supportive environment.

There are generally two types of facilities that specialize in caring for a patient with Alzheimer’s: Assisted Living and Nursing Homes.  Depending on the severity and stage of Alzheimer’s, one type of facility may be more appropriate than the other.

Assisted Living

Assisted living is an option for those who need help with some activities of daily living, such as meal preparation or personal care, but don’t need major medical care or constant supervision.  An assisted living is best for those patients with mild symptoms, who have moderate functional impairment, but can care for themselves with some assistance and move around safely without help.

Although staff is usually available 24 hours a day, you should find a facility that has experience handling residents with Alzheimer’s disease. Some assisted living centers specialize in dementia or Alzheimer’s care.  These facilities, generally called memory care assisted living, offer higher supervision by staff members who are specially trained in handling resident’s with Alzheimer’s. Additionally, the physical facility will have secured exits and enhanced visual cues (such as large signs or pictures) to help residents feel more oriented in unfamiliar surroundings.

Since your loved one may eventually need to move on to a higher level of care as the disease progresses, many families choose an assisted living facility that is affiliated with a nursing home so when the time comes, transferring the patient is smoother and simpler.

Nursing home

If your loved one needs medical care, or the disease is at a high stage of progression, a nursing home may be the best option. These facilities provide room and board with 24-hour nursing care. A licensed physician supervises each resident’s care and a nurse or other medical professional is almost always on the premises. Some nursing homes have special units for people who have Alzheimer’s — designed so that the environment, activities, philosophy of care and staff training revolve around the special needs of people with Alzheimer’s.

How to Transition from Home to a Facility

Moving is a big adjustment for both the Alzheimer’s patient and the caregiver. The Alzheimer’s patient is moving to a new home with new faces, while the caregiver is adjusting from being the person providing hands-on care to being an advocate.   It will definitely take time for both parties to adjust.

Each person adjusts differently to this transition. Working closely with the facility can help ease the transition.  An extra familiar face during moving day, such as another relative or close friend, can also help.  Depending on your loved one’s needs, you may need to visit more frequently or give them their own space to adjust. As the adjustment period eases, you can settle into the visiting pattern that is best for you and them.

Remember that seeking help can ease the physical and emotional burdens of care giving, benefitting both you and your loved one.  Sometimes placing your loved one in a facility is not only a good option, it’s the only option for their health, safety and quality of life – as well as yours.