Guest post: Excerpt from The Complete Guide to Caregiving

Does Your Loved One Need Live-in Help or an Assisted Living Community?

Seniors who exhibit signs of Alzheimer’s and the symptoms of dementia may require different levels of support, depending on their condition and their living environment. Individuals with more severe problems who have trouble coping with activities of daily living such as eating, bathing and toileting, likely need in-home care assistance, while those who are aging in place and can handle basic tasks of everyday living may require help of a different sort. You should be able to tell the difference in the level of care your loved one requires by recognizing the signs of Alzheimer’s.

Deciding to seek outside help can be difficult. Some seniors may resist the notion that they need help, or they might have trouble adjusting to a live-in caregiver, even a friend or family member they’ve known for many years. Maintaining a loving, nurturing and patient relationship with your loved one can help build the trust that’s needed for a successful caregiving relationship to take shape.

Recognizing the signs

The warning signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s indicate a decline in cognitive functioning and a decreased ability to function normally. Bear in mind that it can be difficult to tell when something’s wrong. Memory loss, a common symptom, may seem to be nothing more than an occasional forgetfulness associated with the aging process. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may forget a grandchild’s name, then recall it the very next day. In more advanced cases, people suffering from the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s will forget things that happened a moment ago, what was just said in a conversation, or start repeating themselves because they have no recollection of previous verbal exchanges. Forgetfulness caused by stress or anxiety won’t repeat itself; in dementia, the problem will persist and progress as their condition worsens.

Frustration and anger will show up in mood swings and increasingly agitated behavior. It may also manifest as manic physical movements, such as pacing or waving their hands in the air, or gesturing angrily. It’s a common response to confusion and fear, feelings that are often present in people who struggle to make sense of their environment. Poor judgment and taking chances the individual usually wouldn’t is another sign of trouble, and can lead to injuries. Or they may suddenly struggle with activities that once came easy, such as cooking dinner or doing laundry.

Aging in place: care needs

According to AARP, over 90 percent of adults over 65 would prefer to stay at home rather than moving to a senior living community. Those whose symptoms are manageable and can still function, there are certain conditions that should be met if they are to remain at home. Isolation is a major problem with the elderly, so make sure that friends and family members live nearby. The physical characteristics of the living environment should meet certain standards. There should be adequate lighting, and no objects capable of causing your loved one to trip and fall.

Benefits of home health aides

If your relative is having trouble paying bills or maintaining acceptable personal hygiene, it’s probably time to bring in a home health aide. Your family member will benefit from the presence of a friendly companion and personalized care. In-home care allows your loved one to remain at home and retain a measure of independence. Home health assistants make sure that their care subjects take their medications as prescribed, eat a healthy diet, and get sufficient sleep.

Deciding on what level of care a loved one needs can be difficult. He or she may actively resist the idea and descend into even more troublesome behavior. Bear in mind both your relative’s condition and temperament as you determine the best option.

When moving is necessary

Although your loved one might prefer to live at home, selling their current home and moving them into an assisted living facility might be the best option, especially as the disease progresses. Those with advanced Alzheimer’s disease are prone to wandering, extreme confusion, and aggression, so a home environment might not be the safest place for them. Even with live-in help, caring for your loved one is stressful. Consider the fact that they might benefit more from having a team of individuals dedicated to ensuring their needs are met. Should you decide that an assisted living facility is the next step, keep the special needs of your loved one in mind. Tour several facilities to be sure the one you choose caters to Alzheimer’s behavior, and don’t forget to ask if they are equipped to work with late-stage patients, as some facilities will require a transfer.

June is the primary caregiver to her 85-year-old mom and the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is passionate about helping and supporting other caregivers and is currently writing a book titled, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers, due out in Winter 2018.