Memory Loss in the Elderly
Memory loss can be caused by a variety of conditions, and may be acute (sudden) or come on gradually. As our parents or other family members age, some short-term memory loss is inevitable, and even considered “normal.” However, if our loved ones are diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, or Parkinson’s disease, they will require more help with their personal care and emotional support as their conditions progress.
Unfortunately, most patients diagnosed with conditions that cause memory loss will require intermittent or constant supervision at some point. Family members are a great resource for providing assistance in the early stages of memory loss, especially if their parent or loved one is resistant to leaving their home where they have lived most of their adult life. However, as the disease progresses, the patient may no longer be safe living alone. This may require these patients to leave their familiar environment, and seek admission to a skilled nursing home or an assisted living facility.
Finding the Right Place
Keep in mind that your loved one’s safety is first and foremost. If you know that your parent is not safe living alone, try and keep your emotions from interfering in the decision that you know needs to be made. It’s best to start this process early so that your loved one can have some input into their new home. If you wait until their health is deteriorating, you may be forced to make decisions for them.
Staying at Home
If you and your loved one decide to continue their care at home, some alterations or specialized equipment will likely be needed. This is true whether they stay at their own home, or move in with one of their children. Your physician, social services, or local Alzheimer’s Association are good places to start for help or recommendations on caregivers and home healthcare options. Keep in mind that finding and retaining qualified caregivers in a homecare setting can be a grueling task. It can be done, but the family must be available should a problem arise. Staying in the home is also not an option for some, as it can be extremely costly to pay privately for all required services.
Home healthcare options include:
• Assistive devices such as walkers, raised toilet seat, memory board, etc.
• Adaptive upgrades or repairs such as a wheelchair ramps, handicap-accessible bathroom and kitchen, etc.
• Personal help such as a nursing assistant to help with bathing and dressing, nursing care, meals on wheels, housekeeper, personal shopper for groceries, toiletries, clothing, etc.
Safety Comes First
If you know in your heart that your loved one is not safe staying at home, use your head and do what needs to be done. Don’t wait until they fall and suffer a broken hip, have an accident, and overdose on their medications before stepping in. Just as your parents protected you as a child, it’s your term to reciprocate and do the same for them.
Visit several facilities so that you have a feel for what may or may not be the right environment for your loved one. Ask the family members of other residents about their experiences with that facility. Focus on the care, meals, cleanliness, personnel, activities and services that are available. Speak with the administrator, director of nursing, social worker, and therapy directors. Ask the administrator if there are any lawsuits filed, and whether or not they are state licensed and JCAHO (Joint Commission) certified.
Also consider a facility that can offer various levels of care, in case your loved one’s health declines. Many seniors are able to start off in an apartment, but as their memory and health declines, may eventually need skilled nursing or dementia care. Adjustments in living arrangements will be easier if some familiar faces are present (healthyplace.com).
Make it Their Home
Now that you have decided upon a facility, ensure that it feels like “home’ to your loved one. Help them decorate the room or apartment with photos, knick knacks, and that favorite quilt and/or coffee mug that they use every day. These may seem like little things, but they can make a huge difference, especially when someone is trying to adapt to a new environment. It’s no different than when your son or daughter goes off to college. You want them to feel at home in their dorm-room or apartment; same scenario here.
It has been shown that residents who live in an assisted living or skilled nursing facilities, that have frequent or regular visitors, receive more attention and better care than those who seldom have company. So, visit, visit, and visit some more. Make sure to stopand speak with the administrator and/or nursing staff, and voice appreciation or concerns.
Care Options for Alzheimer’s Patients, (2010). HealthyPlace.com writer.Retrieved from http://www.healthyplace.com