In my audio series interview with Jyl, she brought up an important issue to be considered with a loved one who has Dementia. She talked about how difficult it was for both her mother and her mother’s partner when she was moved to a Dementia (Memory Care) Unit. It affected them both greatly.
Below is an excerpt from the interview followed by alternative resolution to the situation as well as tips when caring for a loved one with Dementia:
Jyl: I work with seniors everyday in my job at a senior community but I still wasn’t prepared for dealing with a situation that came up with my own mother. When your parents are living with a significant other there are a lot more dynamics to deal with than just what should we do for our own parents. You basically have no control over the decisions of their partner or their partner’s family members. Moving my mother and her boyfriend of 8 years into a community went fairly smooth and both families seemed to be on the same page. My mom and her boyfriend really enjoyed making new friends, dancing, singing and all of the other activities they were involved in. But after being in the community for about 9 months my mom’s ability to do things without assistance began to lessen and her dementia symptoms were increasing but she was still able to go to her exercise classes and really enjoy herself. She was also getting more assistance from caregivers but her boyfriend had a hard time letting go of that responsibility so that became quite a problem.
My mother was suddenly forced to move into a dementia unit because her partner’s family decided that it would be too difficult for him to continue living with her. So the shock of this move was so devastating to her that sent her right over the edge. I had always heard that a move or losing a spouse or any major event had a huge impact on a senior but I wish I had known the full impact of such a decision to suddenly move her to a memory unit. And I just think that we would have worked harder at keeping them together because they are truly soul mates and now they are both lost. She is in her little world and he is missing who she once was and his best friend. In the end I am sure this is probably how the story would have gone but not at the accelerated pace that it did. I would just really implore people to think about the decisions they make and how it affects others in the long run.
Alternative Care Decision-Making
Some steps that would have helped the family to avoid the downward spiral and depression for both Jyl’s mom and her mom’s partner would have been to involve the care team at the senior housing community. A meeting with the entire family including her mom and her mom’s partner would have enabled everyone to have the same information as well as each of their concerns addressed. At this time an evaluation to determine both of their needs would have been appropriate. The care team would have been able to identify what additional support would alleviate the burden on her mom’s partner and whether or not they could have accommodated the support in the current living situation. Having everyone involved would have enabled the partner to understand what the options were so that he was part of the decision-making.
Here are some additional tips for caring for a loved one with Dementia:
1. When someone has a form of Dementia, structure and routine are the name of the game. It is important to keep a regular daily routine and structure in their life. Routines and familiar surroundings keep your loved one feeling safe and comfortable in their life.
2. Within that structure and routine you can still vary the activities so that they stimulate different senses. Some ways to do that are through music, reading, painting, dance, or visiting a park.
3. Letting them know what to expect ahead of time but do it in simple short sentences with just one topic. For example: “Now we are going to have breakfast.” After breakfast you might say: “Its time to get dressed.” And so on….
4. Consider time at a daytime adult care center. These centers can give you peace of mind that your loved one is being well cared for while getting needed socialization and it gives the family caregiver the respite time needed to recharge their batteries with needed downtime.
5. Developing a relationship with a care manager on an ongoing basis enables the family to make key decisions at the appropriate time. Whether you need to simply add additional care or decide to move your loved one to a new housing situation, it is important to involve someone who understands in home care as well as the senior housing options in your area. Each senior housing community is very different from each another so you want to choose one that will serve your loved one the best for the longest time so that they do not have to experience multiple moves.
What other way do you build structure into your loved ones day? I would love to hear from you!
If you would like to know more about senior housing options contact Lisa at Lisa@theshiftingpath.com or 408-219-7231.