Dealing with an elderly relative suffering from a cognitive or memory disorder is never easy. If you are facing this challenge, here are some essential steps to follow so you are fully aware of what will be involved and how to approach the provision of care.
Gathering the necessary information creates conditions to reach decisions about care. Discuss your relative with other family members: How was their behavior in the past? In what way have they changed? Are they forgetting about their medication? Have they stopped paying the bills? This information will not only give you a good idea regarding the seriousness of the circumstances, but it is also important to provide it to the professionals you might consult for a specialist evaluation.
Obtain the evaluation and diagnosis from the doctor. It is very important that your relative undergo a comprehensive health review by a professional team that examines their mental and physical health. Various disorders (e.g. depression, the negative effects of medications) can cause symptoms similar to dementia. These disorders can often be corrected if detected early.
Learn all you can, and also educate the rest of the family. Consult doctors, other health professionals and social services, and people who are living similar experiences. Learn about the course of the disease, the type of care required, and the support services available. Keep notes on the information you gather, to consult when you need it.
Identify the needs of your loved one. Among the instruments for assessing care, there are several evaluation methods designed to assess the degree of care that different patients will require and to take into account their personal likes/dislikes (for example, when they prefer to bathe). All cases are different. A patient in the first phase of Alzheimer’s disease may need help buying groceries and paying bills, another patient at a more advanced stage may face issues related to getting dressed, meals, or maintaining hygiene.
Create a plan for the care. When your relative has been diagnosed and the needs assessment has been done, you will be able to (possibly with the help of the doctor) develop a plan which will offer the best dementia care at home for your beloved.
Analyse the finances. If you want to be fully prepared to take care of your loved one, it is necessary that you be fully informed about their financial situation. Consider the possibility of being assisted by a lawyer or financial planner.
Examine their legal documents. Again, this is a sensitive issue that needs to be analysed. But well drawn up legal documents are a guarantee that the wishes and decisions of your loved one will be complied with. These documents may authorise you (or other individuals) to take certain legal or financial decisions on behalf of your relative. Importantly, they may also authorise you to make decisions regarding their healthcare.
Ensure your home is a safe place. Professional caregivers know the best methods to help the sick family member to maintain correct habits regarding diet and personal hygiene, among other daily activities. You will probably need to be trained how to use certain medical equipment and how to deal with problem behaviour.
Communicate with other people. If you join a group, you will meet other caregivers who face similar circumstances. The members of support groups provide valuable support, and information and practical advice on available resources. They are also a good place where caregivers can express their frustration and share ideas and experiences. If you cannot leave the house, support groups on the Internet open the possibility of interacting with caregivers from all over the country.
Look after yourself. This is possibly the most critical step. The caregiver’s job is very distressing, especially for those who care for difficult or demanding patients. Caregivers have a greater risk than other people of getting sick from depression, heart conditions, hypertension and other serious diseases, which can even lead to death.