The time may come when long-term care placement becomes necessary for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. It was true for me.
My husband lived at home for about 10 years after his bypass surgery in 1999 and subsequent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in 2003. When he was unable to walk on his own and I was exhausted from 24/7 care for him, I found I needed to seek placement for my husband in a nursing center.
Observing a few key tips can make the difference between a successful placement for memory loss or a difficult one.
• Familiarize yourself with nursing home etiquette. This website offers a helpful guide, fullcirclecare.org/ltcontinuum/visit.html.
• Show gratefulness and kindness to the nursing staff by occasionally bringing in a box of candy.
• Ask for what you want for your loved one (brushing teeth, special activities, etc.)
• Decorate the room so it feels like home.
• Identify one staff member to confide in and to share your concerns with.
If your loved one appears restless and even aggressive toward others, offer to come in yourself or send another relative during the day to help. No one should live in fear or have to endure threats from a resident who is out of control and aggressive.
Nursing staff provide much needed care with little to no thanks in return. An offer of your assistance may be welcome and even prevent total refusal of services, which would leave you searching for another placement or even taking your loved one back home.
It takes time for a new resident to adjust to a nursing center. It also takes time for the family to adjust. The Alzheimer’s Association offers resources on how to handle the transition.
Some research shows that people with Alzheimer’s can die quickly once placed in a memory loss unit, while other research shows they can live as long, if not longer, than staying at home. With continued nursing care, a balanced diet, regular visits from caregivers and appreciation for who he or she is as an individual, a person with Alzheimer’s can even thrive in a memory loss unit.
Ask the nursing center for a copy of its Caregiver’s Partnership Agreement. If it doesn’t have one, ask its staff to consider an agreement in order to fully participate in the continued care of your loved one.
Ethelle G. Lord, former president of the Gerontological Society of Maine, runs Alzheimer’s coaching and consulting business RememberingforYou.com. She is married to Maj. Larry S. Potter, USAF retired, and lives in Mapleton.