If you’re caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you know it’s a progressive illness requiring flexibility to meet ever-changing needs. You’re also likely aware that there are three stages: early (mild), middle (moderate) and late (severe). As the illness moves through these stages, the individual will eventually require 24/7 care.
But you may be concerned if you’ll always be able to provide the type and level of care that your loved one deserves as the illness progresses. You might be asking the same question as most families – how will I know when more formal memory care is needed?
It’s a personal decision that depends on both the individual and the caregiver, but there is guidance you can follow.
As your loved one’s needs increase, here are 5 signs that may signal it’s time for memory care:
Although Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia affect the brain, there is a physical decline that also occurs. If this deterioration begins to interfere with an individual’s ability to remain safe or the caregiver’s ability to assist, it may be time for memory care.
Changes might include loss of weight, trouble with mobility, falling, injuries and trouble sleeping through the night.
Falling and sleeplessness are two conditions that adversely affect the caregiver as well. If someone falls, you may not be able to help them back up or may injure yourself in the attempt. When your loved one is unable to sleep, this typically means you are not sleeping either.
Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia is a progressive illness that requires the level of care to also increase. Consider these stages:
Early-stage: May still be independent but might begin having memory lapses and forgetting words or names, misplacing items and struggling with planning or organizing.
Middle-stage: Symptoms are more pronounced requiring a greater level of care, including forgetfulness, increased emotions, unable to recall phone number or address, confusion, changes in sleep patterns, wandering and becoming lost, personality and behavioral changes.
Late-stage: Symptoms may become severe as the individual undergoes changes in physical abilities, may become vulnerable to infections, is unable to respond, carry on conversation or control movement. Around-the-clock care and assistance is now needed.
Source: Alzheimer’s Association
It’s not unusual for those living with Alzheimer’s, both the individual and the caregiver, to become increasingly isolated as the illness progresses.
Even in the earlier stages, your loved one may be self-conscious and uncomfortable around others. It’s common to worry about saying the wrong word, forgetting names or other behavior they find embarrassing. Knowing that they aren’t in control of their behavior often makes it easier to isolate.
If the individual prefers to stay at home, the caregiver may also find it difficult to coax the loved one to leave. This situation usually necessitates the caregiver to remain at home as well. Depending on the availability of respite care, the two are often left to live in a world that’s been greatly reduced.
There may come a time when neither the loved one or the caregiver is safe living at home.
Wandering is a symptom that can occur at any time during the illness, even in the earlier stages. When those with Alzheimer’s wander away from home, they may discover they don’t know where they are, how to get back or how to contact someone for help.
As the illness progresses, some individuals may find themselves becoming more aggressive or angry. This can be the result of both the frustration of having Alzheimer’s and the continued changes to the brain. Unintentionally, their moods and behavior can become threatening or a cause of harm to either themselves or their caregivers.
When the caregiver is a spouse, it’s not uncommon to also be dealing with the physical challenges of aging. Caregivers often see their own health decline because they feel there is no time for them to eat healthy, exercise or take care of themselves. Their focus becomes solely on their loved one.
Often caregivers will cancel or not keep up with their own health care appointments. They may rarely or never take time for themselves to vacation, spend a few days with other family members or friends or to take care of their other responsibilities.
But when their health declines, who is there to take care of the caregiver? Eventually they may find they cannot provide care but need it themselves.
If you’re living with a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you may not see changes as clearly because they’re gradual. It’s a good idea to listen to family members or friends if they comment on the decline they’re seeing in your loved one or in you as the caregiver.
The love and best intentions that you have for the person may one day not be enough to challenge the irrefutable force that Alzheimer’s can bring.
We understand the difficulty families face when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. As the illness progresses, the question of whether or when it may be time for memory care surfaces.
If you’re caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s and find yourself faced with this question, we hope you will consider Ingleside at King Farm Memory Support Assisted Living as a trusted resource to help you find the answer.
Be assured that we provide a safe and loving environment for your loved one and your family. Not only do we offer a whole-person approach to our residents, our services and amenities also include:
Please visit our website or call (240) 414-8557 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a personalized tour today.