By Paul Lorrah
The decision isn't easy but may be necessary for both the individual and the caregiver's health
Deciding whether or not an Alzheimer’s patient should go to a nursing home can be extraordinarily difficult. Caregivers may feel guilty or anxious about placing a loved one in a nursing home - they may feel that they are taking the easy way out or letting the patient down.
While it’s true that there are advantages to keeping an Alzheimer’s patient at home, the reality is, it will eventually become too difficult for the caregiver. Especially if the Caregiver is a spouse or family member.
However, nursing homes don’t have to be seen as a last resort. Today’s Alzheimer’s care facilities have improved radically and many offer an exceptional level of care focused on maximizing the patient’s quality of life.
Here are four questions that you should ask yourself before making the decision to place your loved one in a nursing home:
1. How far has the disease progressed?
Alzheimer’s disease has three stages - patients at each stage require different levels of care. A person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s could live as long as 20 years after the diagnosis. Early stage Alzheimer’s patients can live relatively normal lives, although they may notice memory lapses, have difficulty organizing themselves and may struggle in particular work or social settings. Patients at this stage can usually manage to stay in their own homes, and may still have the legal capacity to make decisions about their future care preferences.
The next stage, moderate Alzheimer’s, can last for several years. Patients during this stage will have obvious symptoms, such as confusion, severe memory lapses, getting lost, and behavioral or personality changes, like delusions, suspicion, moodiness, changes in sleep patterns, and in some cases loss of bladder or bowel control.
Late stage Alzheimer’s sufferers become unable to function and eventually lose control of movement. They need 24-hour care and supervision. They are unable to communicate, even to share that they are in pain, and are more vulnerable to infections, especially pneumonia.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, and patients in the early stages may need only minimal care. Even those with moderate Alzheimer’s can receive enough support with either family help or an at-home care service - as long as they are not placing themselves at risk, can manage day-to-day activities, and are able to take basic care of themselves. However, the disease will continue to progress to the point where you may need to look for full-time care, at which point you may wish to consider a nursing home.
2. Can I realistically offer home care?
There are a number of factors that affect whether or not you can realistically offer home care:
- How much support does the patient need?
- Is family support available?
Caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is an exhausting and potentially overwhelming task, and if possible should not fall on only one person’s shoulders. If there are multiple, committed family members to help out, during the day and also overnight when needed, then a nursing home may not be necessary - but otherwise, it should be considered.
- Can I afford paid home help?
Alternatively, if you feel your loved one could use more support but is not ready for a nursing home, you could consider assisted living.
- Am I physically strong enough?
- Am I emotionally able to cope?
3. Is my loved one safe at home?
There are several factors that you should consider when you evaluate the Alzheimer’s patient’s safety in their own home:
- Alzheimer’s disease can cause sufferers to put themselves at risk. They may, for instance, leave pans on the stovetop, leave the gas on, ingest poisonous chemicals, or slip and fall. They may wander out into the street and get lost, or stumble into traffic. There are steps that can be taken to make the home safer, but at some point, you may feel that your loved one would be more secure in a nursing home.
- If you are not physically strong enough to help them, then as they become more physically dependent on you, you may not be able to protect them from falls or safely lift them up.
- Some Alzheimer’s sufferers develop aggressive behaviors that could put others around them at risk. Or, if they are sharing the home with family members, their forgetful behavior could cause harm to their co-habitants.
4. Does my loved one have a healthy, structured routine at home?
People with Alzheimer’s benefit from a consistent, structured daily routine. They also benefit from a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and mental and social stimulation. Circumstances may make it impossible for you to offer your loved one a daily routine that supports their well-being: for instance, if you work long hours, or depend on support from family members who cannot commit to regular hours, meaning that the patient’s routine is frequently disrupted.
If you feel that while you would prefer to keep your loved one at home, you are not able to give them a good quality of life, it would be a good time to consider a nursing home.
Nursing homes can offer a customized treatment program, a healthy diet, 24-hour support and supervision, and social activities.
Questions about how to pay for care? Contact us today - 855.471.6771 firstname.lastname@example.org