7 Signs it is Time to Consider a Senior Care Community
As a loving and devoted care partner of a person living with dementia, it can be hard to know when it is time to transition a loved one into a senior care community.
Caregivers are some of the most dedicated and loving people you will ever meet, but that also leaves them vulnerable to taking on too much.
It is crucial to recognize that transitioning your loved one into a senior care community does not mean that you’re pushing them away or giving up; it means that you want them to have the best care possible while reducing your own risk of falling ill from caregiver stress.
We put together a list of signs and signals to be aware of; to help you make the best decision for you and the person in your care when or if the time comes.
1. Caregiver Stress
Yes, we consciously put this point first. Why?
Because watching your own health is one of the best things you can do for the person in your care.
Think about it: We all know that stress is detrimental to our health. And as a caregiver for a person living with dementia, you are likely to experience significantly higher stress levels than others.
We’re not saying to place the person in a senior care community the first time things get tough, but if your stress levels remain high over an extended period of time, make sure to be honest with yourself.
One common dementia-related behavior that can worsen caregiver stress is shadowing.
If your person living with dementia begins to follow your every single step, you as a caregiver lose valuable time to recover and “recharge your batteries.”
This not only poses a risk to your health, but without the needed time to rest and reenergize, patience can wear thin and challenging situations can escalate quickly.
3. Home Safety & Wandering
Have you noticed an increased amount of potentially dangerous behaviors?
Did the person living with dementia turn on the stove, just to forget about it and walk away?
Has your loved one called saying they are lost, just for you to realize they are standing in their kitchen?
Behaviors that could harm the person living with dementia or others in the home can be a sign of increasing care needs.
4. Wandering & Elopement
Both wandering and elopement can put the health of a person living with dementia at serious risk.
As cognitive skills diminish when the disease progresses, an affected person is much more likely to become confused and disoriented, putting them at risk to “wander” out of their safe home environment.
Elopement on the other hand occurs when the person living with dementia has the conscious intention of leaving (such as wanting to return to their own home after moving in with family).
Does your person living with dementia become more agitated in the evenings?
They might be suffering from “Sundowner Syndrome”, a term that describes increasing confusion and agitation that usually occurs around sunset in people with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia.
Teepa’s Tip: Did you know that sundowning can be caused by overstimulation and fatigue? You might want to try to limit activities after lunch and give your loved one some time to rest.
Case Study: In the memory care unit at Pines of Sarasota, staff has been able to reduce cases of sundowning and falls by giving residents a little time to rest after lunch. Simply dimming the lights, playing soft background music and allowing residents to relax and calm down a bit has reduced the number of incidents.
Aggressive behaviors, whether it is verbal, physical, or sexual, can occur when a person is living with dementia.
This can be agonizing for the caregiver, and severely damage the relationship.
While it is important to remember that these behaviors are most likely caused by the dementia and have an underlying cause, they might be too much to handle for an in-home caregiver.
7. Changing Care Needs
All true dementias, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy Body, or Frontotemporal dementia, are progressive.
What that means is that as the disease causes some of the regions of the affected person’s brain to shrink, the person’s needed level of care increases.
While you might be very able to offer the appropriate care for a while, their needs may surpass your physical capabilities as the disease progresses.
Deciding to move a parent or loved one into a senior care community might be one of the hardest decisions you will ever have to make.
And if you can properly care for them at home without putting your health or relationship at risk, that is likely the best place for them.
But if the time comes where you begin to worry whether you can keep them safe or meet their changing needs, remember that you aren’t giving up on them.
Instead, it likely means that you love and care for them enough to recognize that the best place for them is with you as their advocate in a compassionate senior care community.