If you are considering Alzheimer’s options for your loved one, then you’ve already noticed the signs of the disease—a decline in memory, a decrease in verbal or mathematical skills, even personality changes—and had your suspicions confirmed by a doctor’s diagnosis. Finding the right Alzheimer’s care can be a challenge, but understanding the choices can help.
Can You Act as the Primary Caregiver for an Alzheimer’s Patient?
While some families may begin caring for a loved one on their own, most find outside help necessary as the disease progresses, due to the increasing demands of care and to caregiver fatigue, an extremely common condition which can lead to depression and physical illness. But it’s not just Alzheimer’s patients in the advanced stages of the disease that benefit from professional care. Professionals are trained to mitigate the progression of this as-of-yet incurable disease through various therapies, and a break from caretaking allows family members to return to their loved one refreshed.
Therapy Options for Alzheimer’s Care
After consulting with your doctor about medicinal therapy, you’ll want to consider the following as you investigate Alzheimer’s options:
Behavioral Therapy for Alzheimer’s Care
Structure is key for Alzheimer’s patients, who benefit from the engagement and predictability it provides. Whatever care option you decide on, you’ll want to be sure that it limits unstructured time. Whenever possible, activities that are familiar to the patient should be included in the daily schedule. It’s also important to find tasks at which the Alzheimer’s patient can be successful, even something small like tidying up their room.
Environmental Therapy for Alzheimer’s Care
Spending time outside helps patients better regulate between day and night, reducing sleep problems. Of course, all outdoor activities should occur in a bounded area, like a garden, to prevent wandering and overwhelming the patient. Playing music during events the patient finds stressful, such as transportation or bathing, can aid in calming the patient. Be sure that the music is something the patient likes. Floor plans are another significant element in managing Alzheimer’s. Look for a facility that features things like color-coded hallways, disguised exits (so the patient doesn’t get lost), and “memory boxes” outside patient rooms that help them recognize their room with familiar items or photos.
Professional Alzheimer’s Care Options
- Home Care and Alzheimer’s: The best option if providing at least some of your loved one’s care yourself is important to you. Home care also allows an Alzheimer’s patient to remain in their home, amid familiar surroundings. Care providers can help out round-the-clock, or can come over for just a few hours; they run the gamut from skilled medical care, to helping with personal needs like dressing and toileting, to housekeeping services. You can receive home care through private agencies or even volunteers, but you may be most comfortable with a Medicare-certified provider. Make sure that any provider has experience working with dementia patients.
- Home Care Financial Considerations: Home care is usually the most expensive Alzheimer’s option, and is often paid for out-of-pocket. Medicare will only defray expenses for certain home care services that are medical in nature. Some long-term insurance policies cover home care.
- Assisted Living and Alzheimer’s: Provides help with personal care (bathing, eating, etc.), but not with medical needs. This Alzheimer’s option comes in two varieties: dementia-only facilities, or Special Care Units (SCUs) devoted to dementia patients within a general assisted living set-up. SCUs tend to be contained in a separate wing or on a dedicated floor. Whichever you choose, make sure the facility is secure. Since these facilities are designed with dementia patients in mind, you may find them more therapeutic than even your home could be.
- Assisted Living Financial Considerations: Cheaper than home care, but most often paid for out-of-pocket. Check your long-term insurance to see if you have coverage.
- Nursing Homes and Alzheimer’s: Typically the choice for those in the advanced stages of the disease. A nursing home is set up to offer medical care as well as personal care, but residents tend to have less privacy and independence than they would with home care or assisted living.
- Nursing Home Financial Considerations: Expenses typically fall in between assisted living and home care. For long-term stays, Medicaid offers coverage, but limits amenities like room choice. For the most flexibility, check your long-term insurance or plan to pay out-of-pocket.