“Promise me you won’t ever put me in a nursing home!”
As loved ones with dementia across Westchester and Fairfield counties progress from the early-stage to middle and end-stages of the disease, it is more difficult for them to live safely at home and increasingly exhausting for a care partner to take care of all of their needs. Often, the most dreaded topic to discuss at this stage of the disease is the decision to ultimately move a loved one to an assisted living or specialized memory care community. Discussions about changing living arrangements are also often necessary following unexpected emergency or health crisis.
5 Factors To Guide You To Know When It May Be Time To Move Someone With Dementia To An Assisted Living Community?
Safety is the number one reason many people choose to move their loved one to an assisted living or memory care community. According to Mimi Santry, owner of Assisted Living Locators of Western Connecticut, “For many of my clients suffering with dementia, the home that kept them safe for decades becomes potentially dangerous. Those with memory impairment can accidentally burn themselves, fall and break bones or inadvertently consume toxins. Some people with dementia are “exit seeking” and can get lost even taking a short walk or drive. For those clients who are a fall risk, the home can present big challenges due to poor lighting, tripping hazards like rugs, or narrow passageways that don’t work well with rollaters or wheelchairs. As it becomes clear that the home is no longer safe, families realize a move is advisable."
Research shows that social isolation and loneliness in the elderly population is a huge health risk resulting in depression, cognitive decline and a host of other issues. The former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy commented that the effects of social isolation are similar to smoking 15 cigarettes daily, in terms of health and mortality consequences.
According to Mimi, “Westchester and Fairfield county communities are able to offer appropriate programming for seniors to keep them engaged and stimulated. There are daily ways for residents to interact with each other from exercise classes to meals. People love to tout the benefits of "aging in place" but often neglect the impact that loneliness has on those at home.”
Here are a couple options:
- Financial Cost
Most forms of dementia are progressive and therefore, families often face increasing care costs. A patient who started off only needing a few hours of care daily to thrive may over time require almost full time care. Ultimately, this daily cost of long-term care can becomes prohibitive. Those clients who have saved adequately or purchased long-term care insurance policies can fund these expenses but others need to compromise and find more budget-oriented solutions.
In these situations, families can calculate the cost of maintaining a house and paying for private care and see if it is a smart move financially to consider a community. Again, a note of caution —-memory care communities offer communal care not one-on-one services. Depending on the care needs of the client and the preferences of the family, this might not be ideal. For other families, having a communal care might work very well.
- The Toll on Caregivers.
The health of the caregiver needs to be considered when evaluating whether a move to an assisted living or memory care community. Caregivers, over time, are affected dramatically by their roles. Providers of care often neglect their own well-being and health. During the middle stage of Alzheimer’s, individuals living with dementia begin to require more assistance with Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) such as shopping, housekeeping, taking care of finances, food preparation, taking medication, using the telephone, and accessing on-line resources. As the disease progresses, individuals living with Alzheimer’s also have behavior changes such as agitation and require help with more personal activities (PADLs) such as bathing, dressing, toileting, eating, and grooming.
“Stress, lack of time to relax and exercise, often coupled with situational depression and anxiety can lead to a sharp decline in the caregiver's health. There are statistics that link premature death to the role of being a caregiver. The ability to perform at work can also suffer as the caregiver tries to work two jobs.” added Mimi.
In order to preserve the health of a family caregiver, especially an aging spouse themselves, it may be time to give the care partner the freedom to live their life to the fullest AND take care of their spouse in a supported community environment.
- Professional Oversight
In discussing the benefit of professional oversight, you need to understand the challenges faced by caregivers. Caregiving is hard, often monotonous work and is often not highly paid, if at all. Boredom and frustration can creep in for caregivers. It is healthy for caregivers to get occasional breaks and be able to have some relief from the day-to-day demands of the job. In a community, family caregivers can receive regular training and can get a break, if needed. They can ask for support if challenged. They can receive pats on the back and experience comradery. The better home care agencies acknowledge this issue by providing their aides with training, daily check-ins, group outings and support groups. They also have replacement aides on call should an aide not be able to work.
Need Assistance? Try A Conversation Coach
Remember that the objective of having the “Assisted Living/Memory Care conversation” is not to have a “one-and-done” talk and then make a sudden move to a facility. If you need assistance, contact an assisted living professional such as Mimi Santry to guide you through the process or you may want to start with a simple online practice conversation called the Healthy Conversations Coach from Very Well Health to simulate a respectful and effective way to address the concern while keeping the lines of communication open.
Mimi W. Santry
Owner, Eldercare Advisor
Mimi Santry is a long-term Greenwich resident and has helped numerous families in Connecticut and New York who are looking to find support for their elderly loved ones. Her background of working in finance for 15 years, helped Mimi to work efficiently and compassionately with her clients and provide them with the information needed to make informed decisions.
About STEPS Home Care
STEPS Home Care is a family, female, and locally owned Licensed Home Care Services Agency with offices in White Plains, NY, Stamford, CT, and Garden City, NY. Our goal is simple. Provide you and your loved ones with peace of mind by using 3 guiding principles: FAMILY, PASSION, and STABILITY.