As an illness progresses, care needs will change. As the needs change, so will caregiver responsibilities and concerns. I cannot stress enough the importance of a caregiver enlisting support and assistance from others. We are not super humans who can do it all alone! At the end of this column, there will be a listing of local agencies and websites that can assist you through this journey.
One thing about caring for a loved one, with an illness affecting the memory, is that no two individuals are alike. They all have similarities, however what may work for one person may not work for another. As the disease progresses and your loved one becomes more confused and forgetful, there’s a strong likelihood that he/she will also become restless, anxious, irritable and struggle with paranoia. Don’t just accept that this must be the new norm; there are some very helpful medicines out there to relieve these symptoms. Discuss this with your primary care physician and/or neurologist and be patient as it may take a few tries to settle on the medicine that works best for your loved one. Added to the above issues will be physical changes as well that you will need to adjust to. Some changes may include, loss of depth perception (which means unsteadiness and poor balance), poor oral hygiene, incontinence, tremors, etc.
If/when it becomes too difficult to balance all these changes successfully; you may need to consider getting round the clock care assistance in your home or admitting your loved one to a nursing facility that can provide that. Remember, you are not super human and it’s okay to take the steps necessary to provide the best care for your loved one. Once you reach this stage, you will still be the loving caregiver but in a new capacity. You will now have time to spend with your loved one where you can just enjoy being together, without having to handle all the day to day physical care.
Signs that it may be time for nursing facility care…
- Your loved one’s illness has progressed to the point where he/she tries to hurt you or himself/herself or exhibits anger, agitation or paranoia that medication hasn’t helped
- Your loved one has care needs that you can’t handle well, despite your best efforts
- Your relationships are suffering
- Family members and/or friends have expressed concern for you and encouraged you to explore nursing home options
- Your doctor has suggested nursing facility placement
- Your own health is declining
One important thing; don’t wait until you’re at the point discussed above to make plans for this! Start planning now by researching care facilities in your area and/or how to obtain in home care, if that is your choice. Many of these facilities and service providers have a waiting list so planning ahead can be crucial to having care available when you need it.
Resources for Information and Assistance:
- Central Vermont Council on Aging: www.cvcoa.org or 1-800-642-5119 (Senior Helpline)
- Medicare has a site to compare nursing homes: www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare
- Central Vermont Home Health & Hospice: www.CVHHH.org or 802-223-1878