When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, it's normal for the first reaction to be: "We'll never put mom in a nursing home. We're going to take care of her at home."
That's an admirable sentiment, but it can become an unrealistic one.
No matter how great your determination or how broad your shoulders, the demands of around-the-clock care for someone with advancing dementia may eventually become more than you can provide at home.
That's when families confront one of the hardest decisions they'll ever make. Is it time to move mom into assisted living?
It's almost always an emotional decision. There's some level of emotion tied to it that can cloud the decision.
Older adults who are on five or more medications — a practice known as "polypharmacy" — may experience side effects or bad interactions that increase their risk of cognitive impairment.
Families struggle with that dilemma on a daily basis.
As families face this agonizing decision, families should go through a careful analysis of what's best for all involved, recognizing that's never an easy process.
It's important for families to know there are resources available and that in some cases, placement may be the safest and most reasonable option for their loved one. But it's hard. Really, really hard. It's a very emotional decision-making process that you have to try to put objectivity around, and that's very challenging for a family.
Part of the emotional burden is the perception of what it means to "put mom in a nursing home." In reality, there are many other options.
One of the issues with people at this stage in their life, they fear the term 'nursing home. So there has been an effort to educate people on the term 'community living.''
Community living can encompass everything from a "55 and over" residential setting to assisted living to a memory care community. Nursing care is available for those who need it. But experts say if you understand the options and do some planning in advance, it's possible for your loved one to be in the appropriate setting at every stage of the disease without ever requiring placement in a nursing home. Yet even with so many options now available, the emotional burden often causes families to put off the decision.
Experts say it's common for families to wait far too long to move someone with Alzheimer's into assisted care, when both the patient and the family would have benefited from that move having come sooner.
If people do wait it's hard to say whether their situation would have been improved.
However, families should try to consider the question early on, before they are thrown into crisis.
If you wait, your decision becomes much more rushed and pressured. If you're making decision quickly because of a crisis, it's a lot more difficult.
What are the warning signs that it may be time to consider placement? It could be that the loved one is losing weight, or is dehydrated, or not cooking anymore. It could be acts of neglect, such as not feeding a pet, or letting bills go unpaid, or a "close call," such as leaving the stove on and unattended.
There are so many factors in making this decision. For every family it's different, and it's about how their loved one is progressing. There's a very long list of signs you can look at.
For more information on assisted living and memory care, contact Spring Arbor.