Caring for a parent with dementia at home can be both difficult and rewarding. In the early stages of dementia, many people are able to live at home with relative independence like before their diagnosis. As the disease progresses, more help becomes necessary.
Learn what’s required for successful care, resources to support seniors with dementia and their caregivers, and warning signs a new caregiving arrangement could be needed.
With proper education and resources, seniors with dementia can remain in their homes or with family caregivers longer, according to research by the Johns Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center. In the study, about 300 elderly adults diagnosed with dementia and their caregivers received monthly consultations from dementia care teams, as well as referrals and counseling on health, nutrition, activities, and more. A similar number of participants did not receive these resources.
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The seniors who received resources stayed in their homes an average of nine and a half months longer. Self-rated quality of life for both elderly adults and family caregivers in this group rose significantly during the study, too.
Before choosing to care for your loved one with dementia at home, consider your ability to provide three things Johns Hopkins researchers noted were vital for success:
With the right tools, family caregivers can help aging relatives with dementia stay home longer. Seniors diagnosed with dementia often face a long path of cognitive decline, and can benefit from:
Memory tools. Memory aids can help people become more organized and manage the symptoms of memory loss. The American Psychological Association (APA) recommends:
Feelings of success. Continued learning and achieving can reduce agitation over memory loss and slow the process of cognitive decline, says the APA. By emphasizing remaining strengths, caregivers can help seniors with mild to moderate dementia succeed. Try to facilitate success by:
Providing the required care and support for people with dementia can quickly become a full-time job. Two main resources to help with caregiver duties and give family members a break are respite care and in-home care.
Respite care can be arranged at home or in a nearby senior living community. It’s not a long-term commitment, but a temporary relief of caregiving duties. While someone else cares for your elderly family member, you can travel, go to medical appointments, or simply relax.
In senior communities, respite care may also be called short-term care or short-term assisted living. Gauge your own emotional well-being during this time: periodic respite care could be the perfect way for you to recharge, or it could reveal the benefits of permanent long-term memory care.
While home care doesn’t provide the same resources as memory care, care aides trained to assist seniors with dementia can provide:
Make sure the home care aide has experience caring for someone with dementia, since a unique set of skills is required. Know your loved one’s dementia symptoms, care needs, and expectations before calling to screen home care providers. Once you’ve chosen a caregiver, share information about your relative’s life, memories, and experiences to help the two connect.
There is no cure for dementia. Some older adults age at home successfully for years or even decades with moderate dementia, relying on family caregivers for support. But it’s important to keep in mind that dementia is unpredictable, and care needs could change suddenly.
Also, don’t forget caregiver needs and abilities may change as well. Poor caregiver health is one of the most common reasons older adults with dementia move to memory care.
If dementia progresses to the point where any of the three must-haves — safety, health care, and stimulation — cannot be met, or the caregiver’s emotional or physical health is at risk, memory care may be needed. Exploring options early can help prevent stress and worry when the time comes for a change.
Claire Samuels is a content writer at A Place for Mom. She worked with senior living communities throughout the Midwest before pivoting to writing. She’s passionate about sharing ways of living well at any age.