Struggling with memory loss is extremely frustrating, both for those afflicted and their caregivers. Approximately 5.8 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. About 1.7 million suffer from vascular dementia. Still others struggle with memory loss related to Parkinson’s disease, blood disorders, brain tumors and other health challenges.
Most people with dementia will age at home, which can be the best place to live if the right steps are taken.
Like many infirmities that come with advanced age, memory loss can progress at different rates for different people. Some people plateau and can continue to live independently for several years with extra supports—medication reminders, as well as assistance with meal preparation and household chores.
It’s important for caregivers to realize a person experiencing memory loss does not want to surrender control of what happens in their lives. They still need to make many of their own decisions.
Family members and others can help by suggesting a needs assessment by a qualified professional and by working together to set up a daily routine and monthly calendar to be shared by all care givers.
Simple support tasks can be divided among family members and close friends. For additional help, consider enlisting the services of a homecare provider.
To determine specific needs, a registered nurse at Lifecare at Home assesses care needs and oversees the role of certified nurse assistants and homecare providers trained in dementia care. Life Care at Home professionals and home care providers are trained in Alzheimer’s care, and their training is updated annually in accordance with state regulations.
Even with homecare providers, family members play an important role in coordinating care. An essential step is structuring a person’s day to include rhythms and routines that suit their individual interests and needs.
Here are some tips to set the pace for a satisfying life by being realistic about a person’s abilities:
- Consider what times of day your loved one functions best. Night owl or early bird?
- Allow ample time for meals, bathing and dressing.
- Keep regular sleep and wake times to mitigate sleep issues and problems associated with sundowning.
- Find ways to engage a person in activities that relate to their interests.
- Ask the person to help with simple activities, such as folding laundry, setting the table for lunch, putting away groceries.
- Include spiritual activities weekly.
- Consider attending a support group for caregivers to gain insights about handling challenging situations. Group listings can be found on the ALZ.org website.
For a free in-home assessment by a nurse, contact a homecare provider like Life Care at Home.
Kathy Semrow R.N, director of Life Care at Home, a not-for-profit provider of private in-home personal care, shares her 42 years of nursing experience.