With early diagnosis and treatment, you and your family can plan ahead for dementia care.
Dementia is a general term for memory and language loss and impairment of problem-solving and critical thinking abilities. When severe enough to challenge your loved one’s daily life skills, it’s time to consider dementia care.
Dementia is a catch-all term that covers a decline in thinking and cognitive abilities. The most common and well-known form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, but it’s not the only one.
Dementia is not normal aging; abnormal changes in the brain are behind it. Dementia can affect your loved one’s behavior, personality, relationships, and feelings. If severe, dementia decreases her ability to function independently.
Dementia doesn’t happen overnight, but you or your family may miss early signs.
While memory loss is a well-known classic symptom of dementia, other kinds of dementia can affect personality, mood, and behavior. If your loved one begins to believe the family is plotting against her, exhibits uncharacteristic anger, or experiences delusions or hallucinations, that’s dementia at work.
As dementia progresses, your loved one may neglect the activities of daily living, such as cooking, dressing, showering, or toileting. They may also be uncommunicative, lose mobility, or fail to recognize family and friends.
Dementia is often progressive: it starts slowly and gradually worsens. Don’t chalk it up as old age when your loved one shows signs of dementia. Seeing a doctor for an evaluation may mean there are treatments to slow the disease progression. It also gives your family time to consider options and plan ahead.
Dementia is caused by damage to the brain at the cellular level, interfering with normal brain function.
The brain has several different sections responsible for different tasks; impairment means normal function becomes difficult, if not impossible.
Depression, excessive alcohol use, thyroid disorders, vitamin deficiencies, and medication side effects can cause your loved one to exhibit signs of dementia. A complete medical and psychological evaluation can detect these causes, and treatment can alleviate the symptoms.
Dementia treatment depends on the cause. For most progressive dementias, such as Alzheimer’s disease, there’s no cure or treatment that will slow or stop disease progression. However, some drug treatments can improve symptoms temporarily. There are also non-drug therapies that can also relieve some of the symptoms.
It’s distressing to watch a loved one slide into dementia; it also poses serious challenges. Communication becomes an exercise in patience; try to stay positive and respectful of your elder.
Memory care is specialized long-term care that meets your loved one’s needs, whether they have Alzheimer’s, another form of dementia, or just problems with her memory.
Memory care provides a safe, structured environment that will help lower the stress your loved one experiences. In addition to personal care, meals, and a secure environment, memory care staff are experienced in helping their residents negotiate the activities of daily living.
If, after careful medical evaluation, you need to find a long-term care facility, begin by considering these questions:
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has published Memory Care Requirements for facility accreditation. The requirement guidelines objectively outline best practices, requirements, and things you can check. Beyond verifying a facility’s accreditation, you’ll want to find out about:
You’ll also want to know about a facility’s security and staff supervision. Questions about how the facility is secured, registered nursing supervision, medical services availability, secure access to gardens, etc., can provide a better picture of its operational principles.
You’ll also need to find out if there’s a placement assessment and related levels of care, especially if there’s a change from memory care to skilled nursing. Will the facility’s staff keep the family informed and how they handle medical emergencies are other questions to ask.
You’ll also need to do more than ask about the cost of care. It’s essential to understand what the fees cover and how other charges are incurred.
Above all else, trust your instincts. Does it seem as if the staff is knowledgeable, well-trained, caring? Do the facility and its staff take pride in their environment and professionalism?
It’s worrying to face dementia and its progressive decline. An early diagnosis and treatment can buy time to plan ahead.