Recently I set up a Google-alert so that I would be informed each time that an article about dementia or Alzheimer’s disease was circulated on the internet. Yes, I’ve seen articles on breakthrough drugs focusing on the hope that soon this dreadful disease will be eradicated, and others touting the importance of diet and exercise. But I have also seen countless essays encouraging you to keep your loved one at home long after they have been diagnosed with dementia. My fear is that they are gaining popularity at the expense of well-being.
Granted, in a perfect world this is exactly what we would wish for ourselves and our loved one, but I think that it sends the wrong message to insist that it is possible at all stages of this disease. As you know I was the primary care coordinator for my mother-in-law for 10 years, so I know a bit about how this disease works. In my opinion many of these articles leave out a critical component – an honest assessment regarding the cognitive deterioration of your loved one.
In the early stages it is possible to hire a ‘helper’ from an outside company who will come to the patients home, do light chores, keep them company, and basically look after their daily needs. However, it is important to note that most companies will not allow their employees to administer medications, which I found was a primary area of confusion for my mother-in-law, even in the early stages of the disease. The fear that Nan was not taking her medication properly was probably the greatest source of concern for her entire family. Although a hired aide is able to monitor a patient’s physical safety, the consequences of un-monitored drug administration can be incredibly perilous.
I suggest that instead of dreading the day when our parents need the care of an assisted living or nursing facility, we choose to make wise and informed choices regarding their need for additional care. This is no time to be overly emotional. In order to protect the overall safety of your parents, you have to put your feelings of sadness aside and if necessary, place them in a safe environment.
And here is another important consideration – the socialization factor. Studies have shown that patients who are engaged in multiple social activities tend to remain engaged and connected longer. Memory facilities offer interactions that are difficult to create in a home environment where many caregivers plop their loved one in front of the television set.
I know that these words are hard to read and even harder to implement. But I am challenging you to stand back, put your emotions on the shelf, and truly consider what is in the best interest of your loved one.