If you’re a caregiver for a loved one with dementia, you’ve been dutiful about watching them and adjusting their care to meet his or her needs. However, there may come a time when you notice that Mom or Dad is declining in health and ability. They may be more difficult to handle, or issues are popping up that you don’t always feel comfortable handling yourself. You’re spending more and more of your time taking care of them (and becoming more and more stressed out). Sound familiar? Even if you’re not at this point yet, you may have already been thinking about what’s down the road, and wondering when your loved one may need more help than you can provide.
“We often hear from caregivers and loved ones asking us when it’s time to consider a memory care community,” says Sue Sunderland, Executive Director at The Bridges at Warwick. “Because the dementia journey is different for each person, there’s no hard and fast rule or sign for when it’s ‘right’ to make the move. However, in general, the worse symptoms are or are becoming, the more likely their loved one will benefit from moving to a secure memory care neighborhood.”
Many caregivers may feel guilty about even thinking of moving their loved ones to a memory care community because they promised they’d never have to move away from the home they’ve always known and loved. It can feel like a betrayal and, for some, that they’ve failed in some way.
“It’s incredibly important to know that moving your loved one to a secure memory care community is the most caring choice you can make,” says Sunderland. “Because these facilities are designed to meet the specific, unique needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other memory impairments, your loved one will receive the very best care possible in a safe, loving environment. At The Bridges at Warwick, we’re honored to help our residents live purposeful, dignified lives as they go through this journey.”
The Symptoms and Stages of Dementia
There are three distinct stages to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias: Early, Intermediate and Late. Since no two individuals experience dementia the same way, some symptoms can overlap or not appear at all, which can make it confusing to know what’s happening to your loved one. Here is a brief overview of the different stages of dementia and what to watch for to see how the disease is progressing:
In this stage, also known as mild cognitive disorder, it’s normal to chalk issues up to “senior brain” or the normal aging process. The senior is usually able to function independently but is starting to show signs that all is not well, such as:
- Short-term memory loss and difficulty following conversations
- It’s becoming harder to do daily tasks of living, like paying bills or grocery shopping
- Repeating what he or she has said and trouble remembering ordinary words and names
- Uncharacteristic mood swings
- Difficulty following directions and becomes disoriented more easily than usual
At this point, it’s obvious that your loved one is experiencing more than just forgetfulness. This is usually the phase where a medical professional officially makes a diagnosis, and where you begin shouldering more of the caregiving role. Symptoms during this phase include:
- Greater memory loss and difficulty remembering recent experiences, learning new information and accomplishing simple tasks
- Becoming easily distracted when things are going on around them, like more than one conversation or the sound of a radio
- Everything takes longer and even simple tasks become too difficult to accomplish
- Physical issues arise such as incontinence, mobility issues and not being able to dress or bathe by themselves
- A loss of interest in activities and the outside world
- More drastic personality switches, such as inappropriateness, delusions, agitation and depression
Late Stage Dementia
In the final stage of dementia, the individual’s body worsens and begins to shut down with symptoms such as:
- Complete loss of memory
- Inability to recognize family members and friends
- Inability to carry on even the simplest conversation or social interaction
- Not knowing where they are
- Complete personality loss, with occasional flashes of recognition
- A loss of movement and an increased risk of infections and injuries
Moving to a Secure Memory Care Neighborhood
Generally, once an individual is in the middle stage of dementia, 24-hour supervision is required in order to keep them safe. This care only increases as the disease progresses even further. So, it’s important to realize when you no longer have the ability to provide the level of care your loved one needs. A secure memory care community is more than likely the right choice.
These communities are usually standalone or a separate wing of a senior living community that is completely secure – meaning the community has been designed so residents are unable to wander away from the community and instead can navigate the floor plan as easily as possible.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as to whether or not your loved one could benefit from a move:
- Is he or she unsafe where he/she lives now?
- Is their health or my health at risk as a caregiver?
- Can I no longer physically provide appropriate care?
- Am I getting burned out and neglecting my responsibilities?
- Is my loved one living as happily as possible?
Making the Move
One of the greatest gifts you can give your loved one is being prepared to make the move when it’s time. If possible, do your research while your loved one is still in the early stages of dementia so he or she can have as much say as possible and you can do as much research as you like. Visit several care facilities and be sure to ask a lot of questions of the staff, including cost, room availability, social calendars, amenities and more.
It may also be a good idea to put your name on several waiting lists, even if you or your loved one isn’t quite ready to move yet. The best case scenario is that a room would open up before Mom or Dad needs it, and he or she can move in before it’s absolutely necessary. After all, there is no risk or downside to your loved one going into a memory care community too soon.
Activity. Friendship. Support. Convenience. Value.
Now open, you’ll find it all at The Bridges at Warwick, located in beautiful Bucks County, where every day is a celebration of seniors. Our philosophy of “Celebrating Life” means that our residents enjoy a sense of purpose and contentment along with fun, personalized care and a focus on total well-being.
Our Personalized Supportive Care provides just the right amount of assistance to help you remain independent, along with life-enriching programs, services and amenities. Our exclusive Vista Transitional Living Program is for our supportive care residents who have memory challenges but do not yet require a secure residence. For those whose memory loss is more advanced, we offer The Vista, our specialized, comprehensive memory care residence.
In keeping with our founder Robert Basile’s personal philosophy, developed during his efforts to find quality senior living for his beloved father, senior adults remain our passion. We fill our residents’ lives with countless opportunities to engage with both new and treasured friends; events and programs to enjoy with family members and loved ones; as well as innovative and creative activities that foster engagement. Our dedication to total wellness – for mind, body and spirit – is woven into our culture every day.