Has someone in your family been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or some other type of dementia? Here is a list of dementia resources that you may want to consider accessing and coordinating:
Caring for people with dementia can be quite challenging. Dementia care support groups offer family caregivers a way to connect with others who are in similar situations. By participating in these groups, you can learn best practices and get emotional support for coping with dementia.
Dementia Care Needs Assessment
A dementia care needs assessment includes neuro-psych testing to help determine whether an individual has the legal capacity to do certain things, such as marry, vote, enter into a legal contract, etc. This testing is conducted by Neuropsychologists who are trained to diagnose what part of the brain has been affected, and to what degree.
Personalized Dementia Care Plan
Every person with dementia is unique, and every day with that person is unique, as well. Because there can be good days, as well as not-so-good days, caregiving requires great flexibility and the ability to “go with the flow.” A continuing care assessment will help you monitor progress and adjust the dementia care plan as new needs arise.
For a family caregiver, the responsibilities of caring for someone with dementia at home can be daunting. That’s why one of the most effective interventions is to provide an experienced, trained dementia caregiver to assist the person living with dementia with their basic functional needs, such as bathing, dressing, feeding, transferring, ambulating, toileting, housekeeping, meal preparation, managing money, handling the phone, socialization and managing medications.
Dementia care specialists recommend ID bracelets for anyone who may be at risk for wandering. An ID bracelet can be life-saving for someone who cannot articulate where they live.
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia; however, there are other treatable conditions that exhibit similar symptoms, such as impaired memory, disorientation, and inability to concentrate. Be sure to consult a geriatrician and/or a dementia specialist who can conduct a comprehensive dementia workup and medical evaluation to make an accurate differential diagnosis. If your loved one’s symptoms are caused by a treatable condition, they may benefit greatly from medical and/or behavioral interventions.
Memory Care Communities
Some senior living communities specialize in caring for dementia patients. These specialized facilities are often located within larger assisted living communities. This “community within a community” model ensures that if someone residing in the assisted living community begins to exhibit signs of cognitive decline, they can easily transition to the specialized memory care community on the premises.
Cognitive Therapy / Brain games and training
Dementia care specialists have found that certain types of mental stimulation are useful for helping people with dementia improve their cognitive abilities. Some brain games are available online; others need to be done with a trained professional who can administer them properly and accurately monitor progress.
Research Programs / Clinical Trials
Researchers are working hard to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. By participating in a clinical trial, your loved one may gain a sense of hope that they may indeed experience a therapeutic benefit. In addition, as someone who is living with dementia, they may also feel the satisfaction that comes with contributing to the search for a cure.
Medications should be administered and monitored by a physician who understands dementia (i.e., a Gero-Psychiatrist, Neurologist, or Geriatrician). These days, there are several medications on the market that have proven to slow down the progress of dementia for some. Other medications, such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, have proven extremely effective in addressing conditions that exacerbate dementia. Lastly, there are tranquilizing medications that can be helpful to curb the agitated behavior that can be particularly challenging when you are caring for someone with dementia at home.
A physician may order occupational therapy as part of your loved one’s dementia care plan. Occupational therapists work well with clients who are compromised cognitively because they can identify devices, equipment, and communication tools to help their patients function at the highest level possible.
Since dementia often affects motor skills, your loved one may benefit from a physical therapy assessment. The physical therapist may recommend exercises or other types of rehabilitative therapy to improve your loved one’s motor skills and mitigate the dementia risk for injury.
When communication is affected by dementia, it can be quite helpful to have a speech pathologist provide an assessment and suggest possible interventions.
Many people with dementia live in the moment. In other words, they may not be able to remember something that happened just a few minutes ago. But not being able to remember does not mean not being able to enjoy moments as they happen. One of the most important dementia care plan goals is to string together as many pleasurable moments as possible. Engaging with people who are kind, compassionate and patient is key.
Caring for people with dementia often involves modifying activities. How can you adapt a favorite activity’s location, duration, or tools so that your loved one can continue to enjoy it? For example, going to a putting range might be very pleasurable for someone who used to play golf, or planting flowers in patio boxes may be enjoyable for someone who used to garden.
Adult Day Care
Many communities have adult day care centers devoted to caring for dementia patients. Generally, these centers have staff and volunteers who organize activities and socialization. Your loved one will benefit from the social stimulation, and you and other family caregivers may welcome the respite from the responsibilities you face.