Making decisions for someone you love is not easy. Especially when those decisions will really affect the quality of life for your loved one. If you have an aging parent you may have to step up to the plate. Chances are it will not be very comfortable. Your parent raised you after all. They were the decision maker. Now the tables have turned.
Let’s face it, being the adult child is not so easy.
If your aging parent is still active and has a strong cognitive function, there isn’t a problem. Lucky, you! But for many Baby boomers and some Gen Xers, this isn’t the case. The Alzheimer’s Association says 1 in 2 people over the age of 80 will have some form of dementia. And that can complicate the situation.
When Dementia is Involved
Dementia can affect the brain in many ways. Someone with vascular and other types of dementia may have trouble making decisions. Memory may not be the big problem, but decision making can be a challenge. An aging parent with dementia may also become disorganized and become easily confused. This can lead to problems with taking medications properly. Driving a car may also become dangerous. Even operating the stove and oven can become problematic. So, what should you do?
Move or Stay at Home?
The big question that families have is “Should I move mom?” She really wants to stay in her own home. Nobody wants to drag an aging parent out of their home kicking and screaming. But will they be safe? There is no one right answer. Just as each senior is different, each family situation is different. It often takes someone from the outside to be able to see the whole picture.
When a family gets caught up in the emotions of what is happening it can cloud their decision-making process. Often siblings will have very different opinions on what mom or dad may need. They both want what is best but their vision of what is best is very different.
Look at The Whole Picture
When someone is ill (and Dementia is an illness) it will affect the whole family. The decision has to be made based on that fact. Here are some questions you may want to consider to help you decide.
1.What are your concerns?
Are you worried about safety? Is mom still driving? Have there been incidents that lead you to believe that she is not safe? Be honest with yourself about what is going on. Pretending that everything is all right will not make it so.
2.How many times a day, is Mom calling you?
An excessive number of calls could indicate that Mom is lonely and possibly even frightened. In the early stages of dementia, the person affected is aware that something is not quite right. They may not be sure what is happening. It is not uncommon at this stage for a senior to cover up the problems they are having. Fear of being “put away” can keep someone from sharing their concerns and problems with you. Their idea of a place for someone with dementia is usually not based on reality. They may have only had experience with Aunt Sue who was in a nursing home.
The problem is social isolation can accelerate dementia symptoms. We are a social species. As such, according to a study published in the NIH, feelings of loneliness are linked to poor cognitive performance and faster cognitive decline.
3. How close is the closest relative? Does that person take an interest in helping?
Karen and her husband Bob lived about 4 hours away from Bob’s mom Judith. They were her closet relatives. Karen was very close to Judith and spoke to her at least 4 or 5 times a week. Karen started to notice inconsistencies in what Judith was telling her.
She Really Became Worried
She got especially concerned when she called to discover Judith out of breath and anxious. Judith confided that she had gotten lost trying to find her friends home. She almost ran out of gas and finally made it back to her house after 3 hours. Karen knew that Judith had been to her friend’s home at least 100 times. There was no good reason for her to get lost. Unless of course, dementia was in the picture.
“We tried to get Judith to move to Houston to be closer to us. We brought her here to look at apartments and Retirement Homes. But she has been in her home for almost 60 years. She just didn’t want to go” Karen told me “I wish I would have pushed a little harder to get her to move.”
4. If you are caring for someone with Dementia, who is helping?
If you are the only one doing 70 to 100% of the work, you need help. Caring for someone with dementia really does take a village. I promise you will burn out. It is not a matter of “if” but rather “when”. And when you do burn out, who will look after the one you love?
There are countless stories of caregivers who ended up in the hospital. The person you love is counting on you to make the best decisions. It’s not about being the best care provider but being a good care manager. As such, it is important that you have a plan in place so your loved one will continue to get the care they need even if you can no longer provide that care.
Take a Few Small Steps
If a problem is just beginning to surface you may be okay hiring a home care company to help. It is a good first step. The caregivers can keep you informed of what is going on. Likewise, they can alert you to any changes that may need to be addressed. A fresh set of eyes on the situation can assure that you take the necessary action when needed.
This is the Time to Look at Memory Care
This is the time to start looking for a place for mom. You do not have to move her tomorrow. However, mom’s condition could escalate in a moment. Wouldn’t it be helpful to already know where to go and who can help?
The great news is Memory Care is not like a nursing home. At Sycamore Creek Ranch it feels more like a home than a facility. Our open concept plan makes it easy for residents to navigate. As such residents acclimate to the environment easily. Once here, families report that they wonder why they waited so long to make this move.