By Stephen Andriko
Whenever dementia is involved, it complicates the senior care decision process dramatically. Dementia is the term used to describe the combinations of symptoms of debilitating brain health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, preventing a person from completing their activities of daily living without assistance. Memory loss and cognitive decline are the major deficiencies present. Since emotions tend to rule the thinking of the care recipient, the caregiving task is dramatically escalated due to increased emotional stress on the caregiver.
Many times the first line of fulfillment involves providing personal care. Often, this comes from a strong emotional commitment between the person needing care and the care provider. This emotional bind, while strong, may not last as long as care is a necessity due to a host of factors. Awareness of these challenges and an action plan to overcome obstacles become keys to success. Providing personal care for your loved one is an exhausting endeavor. It may also be even more challenging based on a number of factors that may not readily evident until the situation presents itself. The person receiving care is unaware that anything is wrong. When the time arrives for the younger to care for the older, there may be some overt or subconscious reluctance to handle intimate issues that might be involved, such as bathing and toileting assistance. Even if the situation involves one spouse caring for another, these highly personal events can create angst. While on the subject of spouses caring for other spouses, I would like to caution that statistics indicate that the person providing the care is likely to pass away before the spouse receiving the care. Individual health issues that may exist prior to the beginning of the process are not factored into these findings.
These cited challenges provide ample opportunity for traumatic events to intervene. The drain on the caregiver affects their personal physical and emotional health. Unfortunately, not by choice, they become less attentive, which may result in a fall or other physical injury to the care recipient. The same conditions may even trigger similar physical injury to the caregiver. When dementia is present, one may be faced with unusual and even dangerous behavior issues. Abnormal sleep patterns that frequently appear dramatically affect the caregiver. Perhaps the care recipient brandishes weapons or runs to the neighbor’s home wearing scant clothing screaming about “some intruder.” Worse, the wandering potential that never was apparent suddenly makes itself known in the middle of the night. These are all traumatic events which often culminate when the caregiver throws their hands into the air and screams, “I can’t take it anymore!”
Emotional stress rises exponentially. Be prepared by planning your next step NOW. What are the options? Should you evaluate professional in-home care? What about out-of-home placement? It is always best to evaluate that next step option before you reach the trauma level. If so inclined, one should interview professional caregivers immediately. Visit assisted living communities while you still have your own mental stability; decision making is easier. Caregivers may want to consider respite care options to ease the burden. Many organizations provide part-time options for perhaps a few hours. Often, assisted living communities offer reasonably-priced extended options for perhaps a weekend or a whole week. When a spouse is caring for another spouse, it is advantageous to evaluate a move for both parties. Perhaps a Continuum of Care Retirement Community (CCRC) would fulfill the need. There, a person in need gets top-rate appropriate professional care while the former caregiver gets their life back and still resides in close proximity.