Alzheimer’s Care Options: Be Proactive, Plan Ahead

Overview

Published: 04/10/2012

by Michelle Seitzer

Photos

Getting an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis is nothing short of devastating. Harder still is when a decision must be made about care, either because the caregiver can no longer manage things on his/her own, or because the physical ramifications of the disease necessitate hospitalization or specialized care.

 

No matter how committed a caregiver is, and no matter how supportive the network of family and friends may be, Alzheimer’s caregiving is tremendously difficult. Many caregivers give so much that they jeopardize their own health and well-being in the process. You may not want to think about transitioning your loved one to an Alzheimer’s care unit in assisted living. You may not want to access adult day services just so you can take a break or keep up with your doctor’s appointments. You may not want to admit you need help. This avoidance is understandable -- and common -- but if something happens to you, have you thought about what will happen to your loved one? Who will take care of them? Where will they need to go?

 

You don’t have much control over what Alzheimer’s does to your loved one, but you can control this aspect. A knowledge of the available options, whether or not you choose to use them, benefits you and your caree. Familiarize yourself (and your loved one) with the options and discuss what you both prefer. That way, you can make a plan for care should the need arise.

 

Consider these types of care:

 

  1. Home care -- If you want to keep your loved one at home, home care is a valuable option. You can bring someone in just once a week, a few hours a day, or even hire a live-in caregiver to provide round-the-clock support. Home care can be medical or non-medical; providers can prepare meals, run errands, offer companionship, assist with personal care, administer IV therapy, check insulin levels or blood pressure and much more.
  2. Adult day services -- This is a lesser known and highly underutilized option that gives the caree a chance to interact with others while the caregiver has the opportunity to run errands, make appointments, meet with friends, or simply rest. Like home care, there are medical and non-medical adult day centers. Learn more about adult day services in this article from SeniorsforLiving.com, “Adult Day Services 101: A Closer Look at an Emerging Caregiving Resource.”
  3. Respite care -- Check with local assisted living communities to see if they offer short-term stays or respite options. Respite care takes on many forms though; you could bring in home care or access adult day services for a limited duration in order to recharge, or to take a family vacation.
  4. Assisted living -- So many people who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia are essentially healthy physically; they can care for themselves and walk without assistance for quite some time though they may need reminders and prompts. For this reason, many choose assisted living because constant supervision or medical attention is not necessary, but care and assistance is there when needed.
  5. Specialized Alzheimer’s/dementia care facilities -- Most of these are connected to an assisted living or continuing care community, but stand-alone Alzheimer’s care homes are popping up more frequently now than in previous years (and there will likely be more to come, given the growing need). These facilities vary in size and scope; most are secured in some way, either through an alarm system and locked doors or via architectural features (fences, gates, a unique layout that allows wandering while preventing elopement).
  6. Nursing homes -- This level of care might be most fitting if your loved one has medical/skilled care needs related to the Alzheimer’s or another health issue.
  7. Hospice care -- In the final stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, care becomes very difficult, both physically and emotionally. Consider the compassionate option of hospice care.