Alzheimer's: Consider options for long term care

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Alzheimer's: Consider options for long term care

Early on, many people who have Alzheimer's do well at home. Eventually, however, even the most loving and accommodating family may be unable to meet the needs of a person who has Alzheimer's. Difficult as it may be to seek outside care, it's important to consider your loved one's long term care options. Here's help getting started.

Keeping your loved one at home

At first, you might be most comfortable keeping your loved one at home. A continuum of home care resources may be available in your community, including:

  • Respite care. You might use respite services to care for your loved one when you need a break. Various community organizations or residential facilities may offer respite care services. Respite care may be available through informal resources as well. For example, family, friends or neighbors may be available to help.
  • Adult day services. Also known as elder care programs, adult day services provide socialization and activities for adults in need of assistance. Some programs are specifically designed for people who have Alzheimer's disease. These programs are generally available during daytime hours, usually weekdays only. Staff members lead various activities, such as music programs and support groups. Most programs provide a lunchtime meal, and some offer transportation as well.
  • Home health services. The most common assistance involves personal care such as eating, bathing, dressing, grooming and toileting. Some agencies also provide help with meal preparation and household chores. Most provide nursing care that may include help with medications, wound care and medical equipment. Some agencies provide additional services, such as physical therapy.

Considering residential care options

As Alzheimer's progresses, your loved one will need more help. At some point, you may want to consider alternative housing options in your community. For example:

  • Assisted living. People who may need support with personal care and daily activities, such as meal preparation, but don't need the medical care of a nursing home may be well-suited for assisted living facilities. These facilities — also known as board and care, group homes or community-based residential facilities — are best for those who have moderate functional impairment but can care for themselves with some assistance and move around safely without help.
  • Specialized dementia care facilities. People who need more supervision and assistance than may be offered in assisted living facilities may benefit from "memory care" assisted living. These facilities generally offer more staff members, specialized staff training and activity-based programming — as well as secured exits and enhanced visual cues (such as signs or pictures) to help residents feel more oriented in unfamiliar surroundings.
  • Nursing home. If your loved one needs medical care, a nursing home may be the best option. These facilities provide room and board with 24-hour nursing care. Some nursing homes have special units for people who have Alzheimer's — designed so that the environment, activities, philosophy of care and staff training revolve around the special needs of people who have Alzheimer's.

Choosing the type of care

To determine which type of care is best for your loved one, consider the following questions:

  • Does your loved one need help preparing meals or taking care of other personal needs?
  • Does your loved one need help taking medications or managing other medical problems, such as heart disease or diabetes?
  • Does your loved one need 24-hour supervision or special care? If so, what type of skills must a caregiver have to provide that care?
  • Would you prefer a facility that specializes in Alzheimer's care?
  • How will you cover the costs of your loved one's care?

Keep in mind that some settings aren't designed for people who have Alzheimer's — and as your loved one's needs change, options for care may change as well. Any new care arrangement you make will involve blending your capabilities as a caregiver with your loved one's needs.

Sharing the burden improves care

Remember that seeking help can ease the physical and emotional burdens of caregiving, which benefits both you and your loved one. And the earlier you consider the options, the better. If you wait until a crisis arises, you may be pressured to make a hasty decision. Instead, take time now to evaluate your loved one's future options.

Last Updated: 2010-04-29
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