Chloe Pearson believes consumers need reliable, well-researched information to make the best decisions about their health. She works as a freelance writer and research specialist at Consumer Health Labs. Consumer Health Labs explores and researches data so that consumers may make healthy choices on a variety of subjects from washing pesticides off all foods to sugar vs sugar substitutes and their effects on managing extreme behaviors on the Autism spectrum. Today she is our guest blogger on a topic that needs no introduction but needs in which we need much education in the care giving and care receiving needs in a growing population affected by this disease.
Your loved one had an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and at the time, it was in the early stages. He or she was able to continue functioning normally and independently at first, but now you are noticing signs that it is time for some extra help. The disease itself gradually worsens, becoming more advanced over time, but the rate varies making it hard to say for sure when it crosses the line into needing 24-7 care.
It is best to focus on the symptoms that come with each stage. For example, in the early stages, your loved may only exhibit small changes such as forgetfulness or memory loss, but once the middle and late stages arrive, your loved one is prone to confusion, wandering, and loss of overall functioning. The following are the biggest red flags that it is time to make a change.
We all forget things from time to time such as where in the world we put our car keys or what time we scheduled that appointment for, but there are some things that become dangerous if we forget them. For seniors with Alzheimer’s, one of the most dangerous areas is medication. Due to confusion and forgetfulness, loved ones may be at risk of an accidental overdose or forgetting to take meds altogether. Perhaps their medication looks similar to others, or they don’t administer it properly. While you can use gadgets that provide reminders or dispense pills, when loved ones get it in their mind that it’s time for meds, the result could be disastrous.
Medication isn’t the only area where forgetfulness poses a danger. Seniors with Alzheimer’s may forget to turn off the stove or spend an hour walking around the parking lot because they can’t remember where they parked their car. They might even have issues remembering how to get to familiar places. It’s easy to fall into a sense of denial that this disease isn’t happening, but ignoring it is dangerous for your loved one.
Sixty percent of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia will wander, whether it happens when they are driving or walking. The most common reason for wandering is that your loved one becomes disoriented, and it can happen anywhere — the grocery store, visiting friends, taking a walk, and even in their own home. Suddenly nothing looks familiar, and in an effort to regain some sense of familiarity, they wander, which only makes the situation worse. Oftentimes, those with mild to late-stage dementia get hung up on a memory, such as their childhood home or an apartment they lived in as a young adult, and try to get back there. The fact is that sometimes those who wander never make it back home, so if your loved one has wandered even once, it might be time to seriously consider taking the next step with around-the-clock care.
Prepare for Care
Whether you will be bringing your loved one into your own home or modifying their home and bringing in live-in assistance, the bottom line is that home modifications need to be made for optimal safety. To begin, start by addressing the exterior such as installing a ramp to prevent trips and falls that are a common occurrence as your loved one ages, as well as take steps to prevent wandering such as door alarms and child-proof locks. As for the inside, loved ones will need a room of their own, and if possible, it will be best to keep it on the first floor with quick and easy access to the bathroom. Their room should be well-lit, free of clutter, and optimized for their comfort, so bring in familiar items that can be a source of comfort should they get overwhelmed or confused. The bathroom should be adjusted as well with night-lights, grab bars in the shower/tub/toilet area (certain Medicare Advantage plans will help cover the cost of grab bars), and non-slip rugs and surfaces.
Watching as seniors’ mental and physical well-being diminishes is extremely difficult, but rather than deny what is happening, start taking steps to keep them safe. Be on the lookout for signs that they can no longer live independently, such as extreme confusion or wandering, and make necessary adjustments to their home or yours. As their caregiver, it is your duty to do whatever it takes to ensure they remain safe and happy no matter the stage they have progressed into.