As a private patient advocate, Guided Patient Services is offering tips for families on how to help a loved one with dementia.
We know that getting together for the holidays often results in family members noticing the declining health conditions of loved ones they haven’t seen in awhile. Particularly loved ones with dementia.
While the holiday season gives families a chance to relive traditions, indulge in good food, and catch up with relatives, it may also be a time where siblings and cousins notice changes in a parent’s appearance, personality, mobility, or energy level. They may notice their family member is repeating stories, calling relatives by the wrong name, or acting more withdrawn or otherwise out of character.
It’s easier to focus on the holiday festivities and downplay the condition of a loved one than it is to confront an unpleasant or painful reality. Acknowledging that a family member is getting older is not something many of us like to think about or accept.
Private Patient Advocate’s Dementia Recommendations
During the holidays when you are all together, we highly encourage you to initiate some necessary conversations.
Guided Patient Services recommends taking seven important steps to help your loved one with dementia this holiday season. If you begin the seven planning steps below now, it will make things go smoother as your family member’s condition progresses in the future.
7 Steps to Advocacy and Planning for Family Members with Dementia
Step #1: Get the advanced directives in order
Advanced directives are documents such as a living will, durable power of attorney for healthcare and a do not resuscitate order, that come into play when your family member can no longer make their own healthcare decisions. Therefore it’s important that these documents are completed while your loved one is of sound mind, and can communicate to you what they want. There are advanced directives for financial decisions and estate management as well.
Step #2: Plan for Medicare and Medicaid
Take a look at the many Medicare plans available for your family member. There are HMO plans, PPO plans, and plans that include vision and hearing, prescription drugs, and home care services. Talk with your family member about Medicare supplement plans, advantage plans, and eligibility for Medicaid.
Step #3: Tour Long Term Care Facilities
While you are all together, take a tour of a few nearby long term care facilities. Even if you don’t think your loved one will need one in the future, it’s best to know what your options are in the event you have to make a quick decision. You may want to get on the waiting list for a couple of facilities your loved one feels comfortable with, or even try one out for a short respite stay if a caregiver needs a break.
Step #4: Seek out adult day care programs
Like long term care facilities, it’s good to know all of your options. An adult day care program can offer the care, support and companionship an aging adult needs during the day. Some are affiliated with assisted living and long-term care facilities as well, which eases the transition should your loved one need more care in the future. These programs are in high demand, so consider being added to a waiting list for this as well.
Step #5: Assess the suitability of the current home for the long term
Does your loved one live in a ranch style home or a garden apartment? Or do they have to climb steps to get to the bedroom or bathroom? It’s sometimes possible to make home modifications for future needs, but other times it’s not. If you and your other family members know the current home situation for your loved one with dementia will pose serious challenges or safety concerns in the future, you need to look for other options now.
Step #6: Find a support group for the caregiver
Caring for a loved one with dementia can be isolating. It’s important that the caregiver find a group they feel comfortable talking with who can provide him or her with advice, support and answers to their questions. There are many support groups offered by organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association.
Step #7: Involve Hospice
Hospice is also known as end of life care, and it focuses on improving the quality of your family member’s life. Hospice nursing and home health aides can assist your loved one with bathing, dressing, and eating while also overseeing their medical care. Establishing a comfortable patient and hospice caregiver relationship early is important, as it will make things easier as dementia progresses.
A Private Patient Advocate Can Help Your Loved One with Dementia
While beginning these seven steps for a family member with dementia may seem like a daunting task, it’s not one you have to do alone. If you don’t have a sibling, cousin, or family member to help — or if you do but you all are feeling a little overwhelmed — a private patient advocate can walk you through it.
Over the years, Guided Patient Services has worked with many family members of clients with dementia. A private patient advocate understands your unique situation and can make sure you and your loved one with dementia are prepared for the future.
Please contact us if we can answer any questions or provide additional information.