Deciding which type of personal care is right for a loved one with a dementia diagnosis

Accepting and moving forward with a dementia diagnosis of a loved one is just one of the many challenges that you and your family is about to face. Each family with a loved one with dementia has their own unique journey ahead of them. The decision of how to care for that loved one shouldn’t be another challenge, just a part of the process.

Understanding the Diagnosis

A dementia diagnosis may be very confusing and upsetting at first. Take a few deep breaths. Allow yourself and your family members enough time to calmly process the diagnosis.

When you’re considering getting assistance, via a memory care community, private duty nursing or home health care, you’ll need to first understand the diagnosis and prognosis of your loved one. Everyone’s experience with dementia is specific to them. Consult with your loved one’s physician and other medical caregivers to get an idea of how the condition is progressing in your loved one. You should also consider the changes you’ve observed at home and decide when or if those changes will require more assistance than you and your family can handle.

Starting the Critical Conversation

As we always say, conversations about a dementia diagnosis are never easy. The biggest challenge will not be discussing the diagnosis with your loved one who’s been diagnosed…but with your loved one’s family and friends. In order to accurately evaluate whether a memory care community, private duty nursing or home health care is the right choice for your loved one, you’ll need to talk with the people in your life who will be contributing to the care of your loved one.

You all will need to discuss a plan for the day when your loved one won’t be able to live alone or will need more help than a single person can provide. It’s best to have start having these conversations early and often with your loved ones, so that you’re constantly evaluating everyone’s contributions…so that you can foresee when it’s time to make the transition to adding private duty nursing or home health care into the mix or when it’s time to move into memory care.

Managing Everyone’s Expectations

Your loved one’s experience with dementia will unfold at its own pace. That said, when the memory loss becomes pronounced, certain aspects of their daily life will become too complex for them to manage and may also become too complex or overwhelming for you and your family to handle.

Because the process of caring for someone with a dementia diagnosis is overwhelming at the best of times, it is crucial to expect that there will be times when things will be beyond your skills and abilities to manage. Depending on the progression of your loved one’s dementia, it may also be a bit more than even a few members of your family can handle alone. You may have several family members who are ambitious about how much care they’ll be able to provide as the disease progresses. But, take care to manage your expectations of these family members and give everyone involved the same benefit of understanding, knowing that emotional overwhelm can lead people to not be able to live up to their own expectations of their contribution.

Sometimes, our family and friends will volunteer for more than they can accomplish and you need to plan for that eventuality. And, since you’re in the know, help them plan for it as well. Encourage your family and friends to be modest about their ability to contribute to the care of your loved one. It will make planning care that much easier.

Evaluating the Difference

As noted above, deciding between a memory care community, home health care and private duty nursing is about more than the technical differences between these experiences. That said, that is a part of the evaluation and you do need to understand the differences.

Home Health Care – Let’s start out by clarifying that home health care is not the same thing as hiring a private duty nurse. Home health care is assistance provided to you and your family as you provide the primary care for your loved one. The standard home health services available include occupational, physical & speech therapies, skilled nursing, wound care, diabetes management. The purpose of home health care is to improve your loved one’s quality of life and to provide you and your family support on your journey.

Private Duty Nursing – As with Home Health Care, private duty nursing serves to provide your family with support, but the support provided is a bit more extensive. With private duty nursing, in addition to standard home health services like occupational therapies, wound care and skilled nursing, your family will also have someone to support you in grooming, meal preparation, light housekeeping, mobility and with some transportation for your loved one to and from doctor’s appointments and potentially other errands. Private Duty services are also provided on an as needed basis, so you’ll be able to add and subtract services as your loved one’s journey requires.

Memory Care – In a memory care community, your loved one will have 24/7 support in a secure living environment that specializes in caring for people who have been diagnosed with dementia. Your loved one will receive personalized care, in their own apartment within the community. A memory care community will be led by a certified Dementia Care Coordinator who works with a team to provide structured activities that will support your loved one can remain as independent as possible, for as long as possible.

To be sure, the biggest difference between a memory care community, home health care and private duty nursing is the fact that your loved one would live at the memory care community, while with home health care and private duty nursing, they can remain at home with you and your family. There is no judgement here, it is simply a matter of which of these options is best for your family.

Making the Transition

With a dementia diagnosis, it’s important to acknowledge that there may come a day when your loved one needs a level of care that you and your family are not able to provide.

And, whether you choose a memory care community, home health care or private duty nursing, there’s going to be a period of transition. You and your family members are going to have to stay in open & honest communication. If you’re choosing the home health care route, you all are going to need to create and maintain schedules to cover the timing of the private duty/home health care provider. Depending on which services they’re providing, you all will need to decide which remaining tasks will be covered by which family members and when. In order to get the most from your private duty/home health care provider, your family will need a bit of coordination…but when you get it all worked out, it can be a great experience.

If you’re choosing a memory care community, you’ll need to manage the transition to the community. The focus will be on downsizing and coordinating the move to the new community. It’s also a good idea to use schedules to be sure that all of your family members have the opportunity to visit with your loved one after they make the move to the memory care community. It’ll provide peace of mind for all involved if everyone can see how well cared for your loved one is in their new home.

At Altenheim, we’ve always stood for family and we will always stand with your family. Our goal is to be sure that your family gets the specific help that you and your loved one need. If you’re still on the fence about this decision, come visit our community and we can have a frank discussion about which type of care is right for your family and for your loved one.