By Deborah Bier, PhD, director of special populations
Most people with dementia and their loved ones want to continue living at home. Under the right conditions, people with dementia can stay at home until the end of life, enjoying the peace and comfort of familiar surroundings.
I teach families across the country about dementia care best practices through our DementiaWise® program. Regularly, I’m asked, “How can I tell when it’s time to send my parent/spouse/sibling to live in a memory care unit?”
My answer often surprises them: Their loved ones don’t necessarily ever have to move away. Below are four things to keep in mind when considering whether a loved one should continue to live at home.
- Your loved one can live at home as long they can be kept safe. Safety awareness becomes compromised over the course of several types of dementia. Therefore, the environment has to be modified to compensate for this lack of safety awareness. Even with 24/7 supervision, this is important – every caregiver needs to step away to go to the bathroom or answer the doorbell. Removing potential hazards throughout the house allows the person with dementia to be more independent indoors. If they want to go outside alone, wandering prevention approaches, such as a fenced yard or alert devices, should be in place.
- Your loved one can live at home if the necessary care and supervision can be provided. This includes using dementia care best practices at all times. If you hire additional help, you will want to schedule sufficient hours so the caregiver can develop and maintain a good relationship with your loved one. This positive relationship combined with proper dementia care approaches allows care tasks to be done with less resistance and more enjoyment.
- Your loved one can live at home as long as possible, including through the end of life. Unless there is a high level of skilled nursing care needed – daily tasks the family cannot handle – the person with dementia can age in place at home. Palliative and hospice care services may increase both lifespan and quality of life. Excellent daily care should include opportunities for socializing and meaningful activities as well as awareness of the changing needs of the person, especially at the end of life.
- Move them only when a memory unit or skilled nursing facility is a better environment than home. There are circumstances where a move can be best. This might include a situation where there are advanced medical needs, a home that cannot be made safe or when there is neglect or abuse from themselves or others.
A move to a new setting can be highly stressful for someone with dementia, especially since it is difficult for them to adapt to change. Despite any confusion they may have getting around their home, the familiarity of the home setting can be a great comfort. Homes hold memories, including the personal objects and people in them.
ComForCare/At Your Side Home Care provides in-home care to fit your needs. Whether it is a few hours a day or around-the-clock care, count on us for help when you need it.
Download our Family Guide to Dementia to learn more about various types of dementia, the importance of a diagnosis, changes you may notice and ways to make days better for you and your loved one.