Your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, how do you know if they can stay at home?
In the first article of this series we discussed the ten things to look for in your loved ones if you suspect they may have Alzheimer’s disease. Now that they have been diagnosed you will need to make a decision on if they can remain at home. This article will discuss how to determine this.
First Things First
One of the most important things to do after your loved one is diagnosed is to start making plans right away, while they still have most of their faculties. This can be difficult, especially if the patient is younger. It is never easy for an adult child to realize they now need to care for their parent. This should be a group effort including all immediate family members and the patient. These preparations should include:
- Determining who will make any financial and healthcare decisions when the person is no longer able. Things like gaining the power of attorney are important so you can manage their finances. Finding out your loved ones wishes if they should be unable to make decisions for themselves should be discussed. All family members should be present during these discussions and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to hire an attorney who is well versed in elder law.
- Determining who will take care of the person. If married will their spouse be able to take care of them? If they can’t who will? Will they need to be driven to appointments, shopping or other places? Who will be responsible for their medications?
- Determining if they will be able to live alone, will they need assistance or will they have to be placed in a healthcare facility? This is the focus of the rest of this article, how you can determine if they can stay at home.
Stages of Alzheimer’s
Understand there are different stages of the disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association (ALZ.org) there are seven stages, and they may vary among patients. Every patient is different and some of these stages could last only a short time before progressing, others may last longer. Usually during stages 1 and 2 they will have no problem living on their own, it is around stage 3 where careful observation is necessary. Every patient is different and they need to be evaluated by a medical professional as soon as you see the signs of Alzheimer’s beginning.
Stage 1: No impairment
Stage 2: Very mild decline
Stage 3: Mild decline
Stage 4: Moderate decline
Stage 5: Moderately severe decline
Stage 6: Severe decline
Stage 7: Very severe decline (From ALZ.org)
Major Factors to Consider
When deciding on whether or not your loved one can live alone, the most important consideration should always be safety. Look at the environment they will be living in, can they move around the house easily, are there stairs they might have to climb or descend, is there a possibility they could start a fire either because they smoke or have a gas stove, are all questions you need to answer. The same goes for the use of appliances; if they are forgetful they may forget to turn off the stove or iron. If they can’t remember things like this they may need to either move to a healthcare facility, a family member’s residence or have someone move in with them.
You should determine if the person will be able to take care of their finances. You can set up automatic bill pay for many utilities and also automatic deposit of any funds which will help, but you will still need to make sure they aren’t vulnerable to any kind of fraud or theft. They may also need to have access to some cash for day to day expenses which you will need to arrange.
Another question that needs asking is whether or not they will be able to drive. One of the most difficult things for any Alzheimer’s patient is their loss of independence and they will resist attempts to limit their driving. It is highly recommended to not let an Alzheimer’s patient drive. You may have to take the car completely away from them. Try to make arrangements to be available yourself or have someone available to them who will be able to take them places.
Another factor which should be considered is whether they will be able to maintain their health by eating properly and taking their medications. This can be one of the easiest situations to remedy simply by contacting your local Alzheimer’s support center to find out what local services may be available, there are both volunteer and paid home healthcare providers. Preparing meals the patient can microwave will help and Meals on Wheels is also an option.
An important thing to remember is over time your loved one will gradually become less independent as the disease progresses. You will need to constantly evaluate their ability to stay home alone.
If you determine the patient is able to stay home, there are many things you can do to make their lives easier. Labeling drawers and cupboards for example will help them as will cleaning out their closets to make it easier for them to decide what to wear each day. As stated above, preparing meals for them to microwave would help them. Install a smoke detector and if it is monitored make arrangements to to be called if it is activated. You should also leave a set of keys with a trusted neighbor in case of an emergency. Lastly make sure you and other family members visit regularly. The patient needs to know they are not being abandoned and you need to monitor their decline.
Finally, caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is a very stressful situation for the caregiver. It is difficult to watch a loved one deteriorate in front of you, forgetting your name, forgetting what you have told them or they have told you and repeating the same thing again and again. There are support groups geared for caregivers and you should find one and join it. During these difficult times, it is important for you to retain your sanity and composure as difficult as it will be.
Written by: Paul Roy