Alzheimer's Disease - When Is It Time for a Nursing Home?
Deciding When It's Time for a Nursing Home
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. It affects one's memory, behavior, personality and the ability to care for themselves. Memory loss is usually the first sign of Alzheimer's. Later symptoms include the loss of communication, inability to perform personal self-care, tasks (dressing, eating, etc.) and wandering off not knowing where you are. Patients can become dangerous to themselves or others.
The Alzheimer's patient is usually cared for by their spouse or other family members. This puts a strain on relationships and changes the lives of everyone involved in the patient's care. Eventually, it becomes overwhelming and too stressful for the caretaker(s) to continue caring for their loved one at home. This is the time to start looking for a nursing home.
The following my family's story and how we made that painful decision.
Image: Alzheimer's Patient from Wikipedia Commons
The Slow Descent Caused by Alzheimer's Disease
Where are you?
About a dozen years ago, my father started having a difficult time expressing himself. He got lost going to and from work - an activity he had done for over 40 years. His father and his aunt both had a form of dementia. We were afraid that he was going to have the same problem. My mother took him to the doctor who kept saying there was nothing wrong.
She would call me and complain that he was acting strange. He didn't always recognize her or his surroundings. I went with my parents to the doctor and insisted that he listen to my mother. The doctor reluctantly "tested" my father by asking him simple questions. Eventually, it was apparant that my father wasn't able to answer certain questions that he should have been able to such as the day of the week and who was the current President of the United States.
He was finally diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. He was put on medication. Eventually he began to see a specialist. My mother and he were still in love after being married for over 50 years. They always held hands when they walked together. I could see the pain in both their faces, knowing that he would disappear and my mother would have to watch him slowly change.
Image: PET scan of a brain with Alzheimer's Dusease from Wikipedia Commons
Taking care of yourself
When my father was first beginning to show symptoms of dementia, my mother would try to hide it from family and friends. They stopped socializing as much. My mother made excuses for his odd behavior. Eventually, she needed some advice and called me.
My sister and I tried to get my parents to move closer to us. They were in New York and we were both in California. They refused.
We tried to get them some help around the house including cooking and cleaning, but my mother didn't want anyone else in the house.
As my father became more agitated and aggressive, life with my father became more difficult for my mother. Unfortunately, she still refused help. His physical health started to deteriorate until he wound up in the hospital for various infections.
I convinced my mother that she could no longer care for my father at home and found a nursing home for him where she would be able to visit him every day. That would give her some relief and still be able be with him.
More Information From My Blog and Lenses - These links include tooks that might help you
I believe that every family goes through a journey and figures out what they need to make the decision to put a loved one in a nursing home. Taking care of someone with Alzheimer's is an overwhelming task. As the disease, you have less and less time for yourself. The following links have information that I used to either help my mother - the primary caretaker - and myself.
- Help for the Caretaker
My blog with tools for helping you care for others.
- How to Select a Nursing Home
Based on my experience of finding a good nursing home.
- Compassion Fatigue
Compassion Fatigue is a problem for caregivers who become emotionally and/or physically overwhelmed with the care of others and cannot manage their own stress.
Connecting the Dots - by Dr. Judith London
I met Dr. London many years ago through her daughter. When I heard she was going to be talking about her book, I attended the session. Dr. Londan is very knowledgable and a great speaker. I highly recommend hier book.
Dr. London wrote this book based on her knowledge of trying to connect and communicate with Alzheimer's patients in a nursing home. She defines tools that are very helpful when trying to communicate with people who have memory loss and are not always able to express themselves.
Still Alice - by Lisa Genova
One of my biggest fears is that I will develop Alzheimer's. I picked up this book to see what my life might be like.
Dr. Genova is a Neuro-scientist turned writer who has written a first person novel about a woman who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's and what it is like to go through life as Alzheimer's robs you of your memory.
Movies I Recommend That Deal with Alzheimers
These are some great movies that show how relationships change over time due to the affects of Alzheimer's.
The Alzheimer's Project is a series of four HBO films narrated by Marie Shriver that address many aspects of Alzheimer's. This is a must see for anyone who is affected by this disease.
Both my parents are deceased now. It's January 22 - their anniversary. They were married in 1949.
Just want to wish them a Happy Anniversary and let them know their family is thinking of them. Dad - don't eat too much cake.
Have you ever been (or are facing the possibility of being ) in a position to make the decision of putting a loved one in a Nursing Home? What was it like for you? For them?