If you have a loved one who is entering the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, it’s never too early to think about your options for long-term care. There are a range of options available for patients with varying severity of need. When deciding which is best for you, it’s good to start by answering the following questions:
Does your loved one need help with personal needs such as bathing, dressing, preparing meals, and other daily activities?
Does your loved one need assistance in taking medications or managing chronic health problems?
Does your loved one need any kind of special care or round-the-clock assistance? If so, what expertise does a caregiver need to have to provide that care?
What level of care can you afford?
Most people start out providing Alzheimer’s care on their own, at home. However, as the disease progresses, it can be increasingly difficult for family caregivers to provide care on their own. There are a variety of services available to lend a hand, from occasional to round-the-clock assistance. Here are a few options that may be available in your community.
Respite care. Respite care organizations provide short-term, temporary relief when primary caregivers need a break. Usually the temporary caregiver comes to the patient’s home and integrates into the family routine. You may be able to find a respite caregiver through family or friends, through a community or religious organization, or through paid agencies.
Adult day services. Also referred to as elder care programs or adult day care, these programs provide activities, opportunities to socialize, and a supervised, safe place for adults in need of it—and a much-needed break for caregivers. Some programs are designed for those with Alzheimer’s disease, while others cater to a wider range of needs. Most of these programs are open only during business hours on weekdays, and may provide lunch meals and transportation.
Home health care services. Home health aides provide assistance with personal care such as bathing, grooming, dressing, eating, and bathroom needs. Home health care visits may be scheduled for a set period of time every week or on a 24-hour basis, depending on the family’s and the patient’s needs. Some home health agencies also offer help with preparing meals and completing general household chores. Some home health care agencies offer workers with medical training who can assist with wound care, administering medications, and managing medical equipment.
Residential Care Options
At first, you may be able to get the help you need in caring for your loved one with Alzheimer’s at home. As the disease progresses, however, your loved one may need more intensive help—and round-the-clock care. At this point, you may need to consider residential care options, such as:
Assisted living. Assisted living communities provide help with daily activities—including meal preparation, housekeeping, personal care, and other tasks. They generally don’t provide the advanced medical care you’d get at a nursing home. These facilities are ideal for those who are generally mobile and can care for themselves with a moderate level of assistance.
Memory-care assisted living. Some assisted living facilities are designed especially to provide for the needs of those with diseases affecting memory. These facilities typically include more specialized staff members with training in caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. In addition, the facility itself should be designed for Alzheimer’s safety, with secured exits and visual signs to help residents find their way in an unfamiliar area.
Nursing homes. A nursing home provides advanced medical care on a 24-hour basis as well as meals and living quarters. Some nursing homes have wards that specialize in Alzheimer’s care, with specially trained staff members as well as activities and an environment designed to serve the needs of those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Most families of Alzheimer’s patients start off by providing all the care themselves at home. While this may be possible for some time, the disease usually progresses to the point where extra help is needed. If your loved one has received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, it’s never too early to consider options for long-term care—and if possible, involve your loved one in the planning. The earlier you consider your options, the more likely you’ll be able to make good decisions for your loved one’s care.
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