Seniors: When Is Memory Care Necessary

Oct 29th, 2009 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Increasing numbers of families are coping with  invasion of dementia and Alzheimer’s.  Insidious in its attack, often it begins subtly but its spread seems eventually to overtake everything in its path.  It is a disease of loss while living.  It is a separation from a loved one whose characteristics of personality and uniqueness are suddenly robbed.  Forgetfulness is its mark, but more than that it is just the alien quality of lack of recognition of persons and things that is most devastating.

Repetition is another of its characteristics.  In conversation, returning over and over to a comment made, a person mentioned, an event common to the circle becomes often necessary.  Sensitive individuals do so without losing patience or correcting perceptions or becoming frustrated. The brain plays its tricks and it becomes and behooves others to join in the game, but without insult or put down.

In time, as the disease spreads its terrible tentacles and more and more memory loss occurs and less and less ability to care for oneself or to demand care 24/7, the necessity for evaluation and decision nears.

Among the options are caring for the patient in the home.  The grueling task and professional needs are often great enough to exact considerable energy and wherewithal from the family member(s) to keep that presence up incessantly.  Ere long, the family risks its own health and strength to sustain a constant presence.

Assisted Care offers another situation for daily supervisory care.  This will require investigating available centers that have a Memory Care unit, determining its credibility and reputation, as well as suitability for the patient’s needs and the family situation.  Such services do not come cheap.  They will require considerable resources.  If the family has purchased earlier on a Long Term Care Policy, that will certainly help.  If Social Security is available, that will add to the resources as well, of course. But, be prepared to draw on other resources as well.

Rotation of Care is another possibility.  This means, depending upon the number and avaiability of family members, that the patient’s presence and care  be shared among the family members .  This is probably least desirable because of the ever changing environment presented to the patient.  Stability and familiarity are much more helpful. 

Much of this assumes that as the process progresses, appropriate professional counsel has been sought out and relied upon.  The complexities of these diseases are far more intricate than the average lay person, well meaning family member can appreciate. 

Family members, particularly children, need to be prepared for their loved one not to know who they are.  Issues relating to choices and decisions will have been beyond their capability long since.  Recognizing that you are no longer dealing with “your” parent will be a hard experience.  In a sense, they are no longer in the room. 

These are among the dynamics that raise the spectre of having to make necessary and difficult choices.  Reality will be required to replace denial.  The sooner this issue is faced by and deliberated among family, the easier the decisions become.  Never really easy, but allowing the persons who will be involved to begin making their own adjustments and becoming acutely aware of what is happening will enable calm to prevail and reason to preside with those who are involved.



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