Dementia is a growing challenge for the nation’s aging population. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is an overall term for a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other cognitive skills, with Alzheimer’s disease accounting for 60 to 80 percent of cases.
Regardless of the type of dementia, most of the afflicted lose their ability to remain independent and eventually require special residential care. One-in-three seniors will die with the illness.
Finding the right dementia facility is a job no family wants to face, but it makes all the difference in a loved one’s care. Symptoms can begin slowly, and caregiving at home becomes incrementally more difficult.
That’s why family members should plan ahead to visit several facilities. They should talk to staff, residents and other families, ask to see a facility’s latest inspection report, and visit at different times of the day, including meal time.
As dementia develops, you go from managing by task to managing by the minute. No one looks after those caregivers.
The concern is about the families as much as the loved one. The risk becomes high for heart attack, stroke, exhaustion and even injury for the person in charge.
You still need to enjoy your life. If you keep giving and giving, then soon you both need care. You can lose your identity and who you are while focusing on someone else’s needs.
In addition to relieving stress, good dementia communities offer care and companionship that the patient can’t get at home. Programs like physical therapy, activities that challenge memory, and social gatherings can help with symptoms and make the disease easier to live with.
So families choosing a care facility should ask whether they are encouraged to participate in care planning for their loved one, whether activities are designed to meet residents’ specific needs, and whether activities are held on weekends and evenings.
Living in a safe place, where wandering is prevented by locked doors and supervision, helps prevent accidents and the confusion of being outdoors alone. Along with safety features, families should check whether a facility allows easy freedom of movement, has rooms for residents that are clean and spacious, and has space set aside for family visits.
Families also should ask about dementia support groups.
Being around other people is perhaps the biggest advantage to memory care communities. It can be both a motivator and a social stimulus.
A patient may arrive not wanting to use their walker, but when they see everyone else doing it, it’s OK.