Caring for someone with dementia can be daunting. As a caregiver, you may feel sad and frustrated as you realize your loved one is unable to recognize those closest to them or is forgetting cherished memories. You may also be trying to figure out how to handle practical dementia care challenges, such as keeping your loved one safe as their disease progresses.
You’re not alone — more than 16 million Americans provide unpaid dementia elderly care for family and friends each year, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Many family caregivers choose to support a relative with dementia at home. But as their disease progresses, caring for someone with dementia alone may become difficult to manage. If a time comes when you need help caring for your elderly loved one, help is available. Read on to understand how to get help taking care of an elderly relative with dementia, and what resources and care options are available.
Personality and memory changes can pose some of the greatest challenges in dementia elderly care. If you’re considering caring for someone with dementia, it’s important to understand what to expect and track dementia symptoms. People with dementia may experience physical symptoms, including:
Some mental symptoms of cognitive decline and difficult dementia behaviors include:
Although many challenging dementia behaviors can’t be eliminated, the following strategies may help prevent or minimize them when caring for someone with dementia.
How do you care for an elderly person with dementia as their disease progresses? Your parent’s symptoms and care needs will likely change over time. In the later stages, caring for someone with dementia at home without help may be difficult or impossible. Whether you just need a short break to focus on your well-being or are looking for more permanent support, find the right level of care for your loved one.
If you choose to care for someone with dementia at home, it’s important to ensure your home is safe. Medication and dangerous objects, such as kitchen knives, should be safely locked away. You may also need to install additional locks to prevent wandering, and night-lights to reduce disorientation at night.
If you need additional support taking care of the elderly with dementia, in-home care services offer different levels of care depending on your relative’s needs. In-home care services for dementia may include:
Caring for someone with dementia can lead to serious mental and physical caregiver health risks. Respite care, also called short-term care, offers caregivers a well-deserved break. While your loved one receives respite care, you can spend time with other friends and family, focus on work, vacation, or focus on your own health and well-being.
Respite care offers help with ADLs and medication management in a safe environment. Many volunteer organizations, support groups, and area resources offer a form of dementia elderly care, which can last anywhere from several days to a month or more. Some senior living communities specializing in memory care also provide dementia-specific respite care. This can be a good way to try out a senior living community before making a permanent move.
Memory care communities are tailored to the specific needs of people with dementia. These facilities provide a safe environment uniquely designed to promote familiarity, reduce confusion, and prevent wandering. They also offer activities and therapies, like sensory stimulation, music therapy, and engagement stations to connect with residents.
Staff at memory care communities receive ongoing training to assist residents with specific memory needs and to help minimize many of the difficult behaviors associated with dementia.
Taking care of elderly residents with dementia is the primary focus of memory care communities. That’s why they feature lower staff-to-resident ratios than other senior living options, 24-hour supervised care, and secured exits.
Nursing homes offer 24-hour medical assistance and supervision, along with room and board. Nursing home residents usually suffer from seriously debilitating conditions and may be bedridden, wheelchair-bound, or in need of daily skilled nursing care. A doctor must prescribe this type of care before your loved one can move into a nursing home. Nursing homes also offer help with ADLs, as well as planned activities.
Since nursing homes are designed for people with severe medical conditions, they may or may not have training or programs geared toward dementia care. Lower staff-to-resident ratios limit person-centered care for dementia, and many therapies focus on the physical aspects of aging, rather than cognition. If your loved one’s medical concerns necessitate a nursing home, ask “how do you care for an elderly person with dementia?” for more information about their experience with and resources for residents experiencing cognitive decline.
If you’re not sure what type of care would be best for your loved one with dementia, talk to one of our free Senior Living Advisors. They can help you think through your parent’s needs, your expectations for care, and the types of care available to find the right solution for your family.
Family Caregiver Alliance National Center on Caregiving. “Caregiver’s guide to understanding dementia behaviors.” https://www.caregiver.org/caregivers-guide-understanding-dementia-behaviors.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Caregiving for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia.” https://www.cdc.gov/aging/caregiving/alzheimer.htm.
HelpGuide. “Alzheimer’s and dementia behavior management.” https://www.helpguide.org/articles/alzheimers-dementia-aging/alzheimers-behavior-management.htm.