Wandering creates one of the biggest concerns I hear about from dementia caregivers. Fear that someone in your care will get lost is not an unreasonable. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 60 percent of people with dementia will wander off, with up to half of them suffering serious injury or death if they are not found within 24 hours.
When is it Time?
If you are at the point where these concerns are a common experience, it’s time to seriously consider a senior living community that specializes in Alzheimer’s and dementia care. You don’t have to wait until things are at a critical safety risk. Any of the following signs are reason enough to look at your options:
- A lack of impulse control and increased issues with controlling their emotional responses, like verbal outbursts, physical resistance to person care, or accusatory or paranoid statements
- Depression or isolation and difficulty engaging in meaningful activities
- An increase in agitation or restlessness
- An increased number of falls
- Increasing physical dependence on others for the activities of daily living
- A need for verbal, gesture, or physical cueing and prompting to complete tasks
- Weight loss or difficulty with dining
I also tell caregivers to be on the watch for signs of burnout in themselves, such as irritation, social withdrawal, low mood and exhaustion. Caring for someone with dementia can be a heavy load–in fact; about 40 percent of caregivers suffer from Depression, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. When looking at the dementia care route, it is important to consider your own health and the health of the whole family as well.
What Are They Like?
Staying at home may seem like the best option, but given the complexity of the disease and the amount of support needed, your loved one will get more support at a community especially designed for people living with dementia.
Associates are trained in dementia care and specialize in techniques, like:
- Physical prompting and cueing to maintain independence
- Validation and other communication techniques for better understanding and partnership
- Engaging in meaningful activities that utilize remaining skills
Associates are aware that behavioral expressions such as agitation are a response to the disease process, and focus on preventative behavioral problem-solving rather than behavior management. At Brookdale, we offer consistent assignment of care partners to each resident. These consistently assigned care partners develop strong relationships and can notice the slightest changes in condition, mood or behavior as they anticipate their unmet needs.
Dementia care communities also focus on keeping residents engaged by providing a wide range of person centered activities that are geared to different ability and interest levels. Challenges around dining, such as difficulty swallowing or handling utensils are managed through the use of strategies including providing appropriate levels of prompts, use of adapted recipes, and specialized table settings, all ensure better nutrition. The environments are also designed with the needs of persons living with dementia in mind. These communities are secured but more importantly also allow for a “sheltered freedom” with safe outdoor walking spaces and gardens.
A final piece of advice: Do your best to develop a plan ahead of time that makes the transition as painless as possible – preparation for big changes like moving can alleviate stress in all of us, but particularly in people living with dementia.