One of the hardest questions to answer is “When is the right time to move my loved one to memory care?” Maggie Cattell, Program Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Indiana Chapter sat down and spoke with us about this question and how to best answer it. To start, we must first understand what Alzheimer’s and Dementia is. Dementia is a general term for a collection of symptoms that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia and accounts for 80% of dementia diagnoses. There are currently over 400 different types of dementia. Some think that Alzheimer’s is a normal part of aging. However, it is not a normal part of aging; it is a progressive brain disease. Alzheimer’s causes nerve cells in the brain to die, which leads to shrinkage in the brain. The changes in the brain result in changes in memory, thinking, and behavior.
Cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia don’t always cause an immediate impact to an individual. Rather, signs and symptoms unfold over a period of time, making it difficult to know when memory care is truly needed. Many will refer to three stages of dementia; Early Stage, Middle Stage, and Late Stage. There are also the psychological and emotional impacts of dementia-related conditions on a person’s spouse, loved ones, and family. Denial, emotionally driven conversations, and the thought that caregiving can’t be that difficult, all add to the challenge of making mindful, long-term care plans.
Now that we know a little more about Alzheimer’s and dementia we can better recognize the signs and symptoms associated with it. As a person progresses through the stages, additional care should be considered. Ideally, care considerations should be made for all of us, not just those who have an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. None of us know what tomorrow might bring and having a say in your care is important.
There are many reasons families begin looking into other care options. Safety is one of the biggest reasons to consider memory care. When a person starts to wander, or get turned around easily, have unexplained bruises, or are taking too much or too little of medications, or even have issues using the oven or stove then their safety is in jeopardy. Another sign might be they aren’t meeting dietary needs, or they aren’t getting enough physical or social activity. When activities of daily living are being compromised such as bathing, dressing, toileting, and eating, it’s time to consider memory care. Behavioral changes can also be a big indicator; depression, increased confusion, disorientation, insomnia, aggression, or sadness. Also, caregiver burnout is another reason to consider memory care. Being a caregiver is 24/7 and requires physical strength for lifting, toileting, mental acuity for tracing medications and doctor schedules, as well as endurance. Oftentimes this is not something most caregivers can provide long term.
Memory care is a way for persons to receive quality care when a caregiver no longer can. I’d like to put an emphasis on the word quality of care. Oftentimes families make promises to their loved ones to keep them at home. However, it can be very hard to provide quality social stimulation, effective nutrition monitoring, physical and mental activities at home. Television is not a means to provide quality care.
Lastly, caregivers and families can experience a wide range of emotions when considering care options. One of those emotions may be guilt. Remember the value of peer exposure and quality of care when those feelings of guilt overwhelm you. Another emotion some may feel is relief, and that is ok!
Alzheimer’s Association | Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia Help, 2022, http://alz.org. Accessed 11 March 2022.