It happens more often that you’d think. A caregiver, usually a spouse who is living with someone with dementia, reaches the point that they need to place their loved one in memory care, but family wants to fight it.
Sometimes this comes from denial that things are really as bad as the caregiver thinks they are. Sometimes, sadly, it stems from greed, and not wanting to spend money on care, so it’s there for inheritance. But most of the time it’s from lack of education as to what the caregiver is actually experiencing and what wonderful options there are for placement.
Many people think taking care of someone with dementia is like taking care of a child. The truth is it’s far from it! A child doesn’t pack a bag in the middle of the night and start to wander out the door. A child can be reasoned with, but someone with dementia doesn’t have that capacity.
The worst part is, typically, the caregiver waits until they themselves are starting to suffer mentally and physically from caregiving. It is not only physically exhausting, with middle of the night worries, but mentally exhausting and stressful as well. Studies show that caregiver’s health deteriorates at an accelerated rate and they also become demoralized and often suffer from depression.
Loaded with good intentions, family may offer respites of a couple of hours, or suggest more in home help. This does not relieve the main caregiver of the stresses and isolation they feel.
The Missing Piece
What’s missing is the education of how the right memory care community will actually enhance the life of not only the person with dementia, but also allow the caregiver to resume being a spouse/child. The activities in these communities can be very beneficial to someone with dementia.
They are designed to engage the individual without overwhelming them. Many times I tour communities with a family, and they think the activities are too childish. However, they are designed not to frustrate someone with dementia and are actually soothing.
The key is to find the right community. If your loved one is high functioning, you don’t want to place him/her in a community with mostly lower functioning folks. If it is a male, seek a community with more men so he has companionship. This is sometimes hard to do, since women typically make up 80% of the aged population in these communities. Knowing the residents, types of activities and levels of functioning at each community, allows us to help you find a perfect match for your loved one.
So if you have a family member who thinks it’s time, support them, because I promise you, they are riddled with guilt and need encouragement and support.