Jul 2, 2015

5 Tips For People Choosing Long Term Dementia Care

Experience has taught me that family caregivers have a lot of questions when they choose long term dementia care for the loved ones.

5 Tips Long Term Dementia Care | Alzheimer's Reading Room

Experience has also taught me that there is plenty to know ahead of time—and plenty of tips that will help caregivers make a dementia care community move as simple as possible.

By Rachael Wonderlin
Alzheimer's Reading Room

1. Label your loved one’s items—especially their clothes

Having worked in long-term dementia community care, I can tell you first-hand that residents’ items go missing constantly. Typically, this is because another resident will go into a room that is not their room and walk out with a couple items. It is important to understand that this is not something malicious that one resident does to another—it is just a part of the disease process. People with dementia typically have trouble understanding their surroundings, and they may not be aware of what belongs to them and what does not.

Labeling your loved one’s shirts, pants, socks, towels, walkers, canes, and anything and everything else will save you a lot of pain and time. I have had many family members call and complain that a loved one’s sweater is missing, only to hear them describe a very basic sweater that could belong to anyone. It is very challenging for people who work in the community to remember what belongs to whom. A permanent marker can solve a lot of mysteries—and it can ensure that your loved one’s items will be returned to their room.

2. Store your loved one’s expensive items away before they move

It is so sad when a person with dementia loses something that is important to them. Just recently I had a resident who misplaced her wedding band. Because she has dementia, she was unable to describe it to us. The family was not quite sure how to describe it either, and the search turned into a week-long affair.

The best thing that a family caregiver can do is to take their loved one’s expensive items and keep them safe at home. If a person with dementia is used to wearing a wedding ring, perhaps it may be possible to replace that wedding ring with a cheap band. They will still feel as though they’re wearing a ring—it just won’t be a tragedy if it goes missing.

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3. A phone is probably not a great option

Many family caregivers want their loved ones with dementia to have phones in their rooms. While this can work for a little while, most everyone with dementia will get to the point where they no longer know how to use a telephone. Typically, this results in a lot of late-night phone calls, calls to the wrong people, and even calls to the police department.

A good way to solve this issue is to provide a phone that only dials out (you can find these online) or to get a phone that has pre-programmed numbers. Another option is to avoid installing a phone in a loved one’s room at all.

4. Find out what the community provides—and what it doesn’t

Different communities will provide different amenities. Does your loved one’s community provide towels? What about soap? How about toilet paper or adult briefs? You will want to know what you need to buy before you choose a dementia care community for a loved one. The cost associated with some of these items is going to dramatically change the overall cost of your loved one’s new care community.

5. Know what items your loved one can and cannot have

Many care communities have a list of items that residents should not have in their rooms. In the U.S., for example, many states have regulations about what types of liquids residents are allowed to keep. I can tell you from experience that both North Carolina and Pennsylvania, for example, are very cautious about what residents are allowed to keep in their bathrooms. For many communities, the only soap or shampoo allowed are bottles that are labeled “safe for children.”

Each care community is different, but these tips will help you to make the wisest choices when choosing a place for your loved one to live. Remember to ask questions, learn as much as you can, and take a tour or two of each community you are considering.

More articles by - Rachael Wonderlin

Rachael Wonderlin is the Director of Memory Care at Blue Harbor Senior Living, and specializes in long term dementia care. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a Master’s degree in Gerontology. She writes and answers questions from readers at Dementia By Day.

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