When Should Dementia Patients Move Into a Care Home
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When Should Dementia Patients Move Into a Care Home?

 

 

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be an extremely challenging task. Balancing daily living with the responsibilities of being a carer, and coping with the emotional difficulties of seeing a cherished family member decline, can be difficult.

Added to this, providing personal care for a loved one with dementia requires specific, often specialized skills, as well as significant adjustments to physical living space. Doing this in an ordinary home environment can present huge challenges, and will require sizable changes to be made.

As a result of all of this, nursing homes are often the knee-jerk reaction for families faced with a senior family member with dementia and struggling to figure out how to offer long term care for them at home. However, while assisted living can provide a useful solution, they come with their own issues and problems, and they absolutely do not have to be the only option when it comes to dementia care. 

Dementia home care services can often provide a more comfortable, familiar, and loving environment, which can be extremely beneficial for someone dealing with dementia, and can make things much easier and more convenient for family caregivers too. 

Due to the quality and advantages of at-home care, in many cases the best time to move dementia patients into a care home is actually ‘never’! In fact, working with an at-home care organization like Senior Helpers can be the solution to keeping everyone in the family safe, happy, and as comfortable as possible, as well as providing the best level of care possible. 

Knowing whether a care home or at-home care is right for your individual situation requires a firm understanding of dementia and the needs and demands of providing long term care for a loved one with dementia. In this article we will explore the stages of dementia, what some of the warning signs are, what some of the challenges of caring for a loved one with dementia are, whether at-home care might be right for you.

Stages of Dementia

Dementia is a general term for a specific set of medical conditions that arise from a variety of diseases, most commonly from Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. Dementia is a progressive condition, meaning that when it begins it can be mild, with symptoms developing and worsening over time as the condition becomes more serious. As a result, there are a number of stages of dementia which can be useful to identify and categorize, in order to help plan treatment, to understand and how to talk to a parent with dementia, and to prepare for the future. 

The stages of dementia are usually split up into three general stages, mild, moderate, and severe. These general stages can be broken down still further to provide a total of seven separate stages of dementia. Of course, every case is different and the progression of dementia will be different for each individual, but identifying the seven stages can be helpful, and can provide a framework when it comes to caring for your loved one, identifying safety risks, and working out what type of care is appropriate.

Normal Behavior

The signs of early onset dementia are incredibly hard to detect, and in the beginning, dementia may well present no symptoms to speak of, even though the disease has already begun to damage the brain. It is very hard to tell the difference between delirium and dementia, and it may be several years before signs and symptoms become clear. 

Forgetfulness

The most common early sign of dementia is increased forgetfulness. Your loved one will begin to struggle with short-term memory, and might find themselves forgetting where they’ve put things, or forgetting names or small details. At this stage dementia is usually indistinguishable from normal memory decline as a result of getting older. 

Mild Decline

As the damage to the brain increases and dementia gets more pronounced, memory loss, forgetfulness, and a lack of clarity of thought will become more obvious. This stage can continue for up to seven years. 

Moderate Decline

At the ‘moderate’ stage of dementia, the symptoms will be rather more marked, and more obvious. Family members with dementia will now be fairly reliant on care to take care of more complex everyday tasks, will struggle to manage money or remember things that happen to them during the day, and will begin to demonstrate changes in their mood and behavior. 

Moderately Severe Decline

As dementia worsens, your loved one will require an increasing amount of medical care and support. In the final stage before ‘severe decline’ family members with dementia will still be able to take care of many of their personal needs (bathing, feeding themselves, etc) but will struggle to remember facts and figures, and will have minimal short- or medium-term memory.

Severe Decline

The final stages of dementia are when your loved one will be fully reliant on care, and will need around-the-clock support. Personal hygiene, eating, and dressing themselves will likely be problematic or impossible, and mood swings and personality changes are extremely common. People with dementia at this stage are often confused, agitated, or even angry, although they will still be able to recognize those closest to them. 

Very Severe Decline

It is quite common for people with dementia to pass away before they reach the final stage. At this point communication and speech will be nearly impossible, and they will require 24 hour care, professional supervision and significant medical care.

Lookout for Trouble with Daily Tasks

Identifying dementia in a family member early can go a long way towards helping to treat it, and can make caregiving a far easier task. As seen above, during the early stages of dementia the signs and symptoms can be extremely subtle, and almost indistinguishable from ordinary memory loss that occurs as a natural part of the aging process. However, there are some things to watch out for in particular, and the earlier you can identify the problem, the better it is for your family member.

Memory loss and trouble with dates, names, details, and faces, are all a normal part of the aging process. However if these start to become pronounced or acute, then it could be a sign that a Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) might be worth considering. The most obvious symptoms to watch out for when looking for an early indication of dementia are if your loved one has trouble feeding themselves, starts to have trouble dressing themselves or understanding how to dress appropriately, or if they begin to get lost on the way to or from errands on a regular basis. 

There are no hard and fast rules about when it is time to get a dementia diagnosis, but these are the most common symptoms. As stressed above, the earlier you can identify the condition (and the underlying cause), the more effective the treatment will be, and the easier it will be to care for your loved one. 

Caregiver stress

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be extremely difficult and stressful, and it is all too easy for care providers to sacrifice their own mental and physical well being for the well being of their family. It can be challenging to place limits on the amount of care, time, and energy you are willing to give to a family member with dementia, particularly in the case of a partner, parent, or child, and there is a tremendous amount of guilt and anxiety that can arise as a result. 

However, regardless of the stage of the dementia your family member is in, it is incredibly important that caregivers feel comfortable and are allowed to decide what level of stress and responsibility they can handle. Burnout on the part of the caregiver helps no one, and if the level of stress in caregiving becomes too much for you to cope with, that can be a sign that it is time for some sort of professional assistance.  

Can I offer home care instead?

Many family caregivers feel uncomfortable about putting their loved ones into a care home. While residential care homes and assisted living facilities are often a good (and even necessary) option in some cases, handing over care of your loved one completely to an institution can feel a little like abandoning them. 

Luckily, at-home care offers a wonderful alternative to assisted living. 

Hiring in-home dementia care experts allows loved ones with dementia to remain in familiar, comfortable surroundings, and avoid the stress that comes from relocation. It allows family caregivers to stay in touch and be a part of the care of their family members, while taking much of the stress and workload off their shoulders. It also provides the expert assistance and support that family caregivers otherwise struggle to offer. 

The level of support necessary varies enormously as dementia progresses through the stages identified earlier. It can start with simple things like meal preparation and organizing daily activities, and move on to everything from medication to bathing and dressing. Most importantly, expert in-home care partners like Senior Helpers Orlando have the experience and knowledge in treating and assisting patients with dementia to allow them to ensure that the home environment is the safest and most comfortable option for your loved one. 

What does at-home care look like?

At-home care combines the quality of care and expertise of a residential care facility with the comforts and familiarity of a home environment. It is a safe, affordable option for family caregivers that allows their loved ones with dementia to remain in the family home while still ensuring the best possible care.

At-home care offers a myriad of benefits. It allows loved ones to stay in their own home or in a comfortable, family environment, preserving their dignity and quality of life. It allows them to remain far more independent, and also releases family caregivers from much of the stress and workload of dementia care. It is thoughtful, personalized care which caters directly to the individual need of each person with dementia. It helps to provide peace of mind for you and the rest of your family, and reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation in those with dementia. Finally, it can be a huge help in preventing common physical injuries associated with dementia, such as falls and other home accidents. 

To find out more about the benefits of at-home care and whether it might be the right option for you, get in touch with Senior Helpers today to schedule a free in-home assessment.