DIMENSIONS Autumn 1999

MAKING LONG TERM CARE DECISIONS & TRANSITIONS

Adapted by Julee Carper, Education Director

Note. Each issue of Dimensions features a contribution from one of the Alzheimer's groups in Washington. This article is reprinted with permission from the AIzheimer's Association Western and Central Washington Chapter.

The decision to make a nursing home placement for a family member with dementia can be very difficult and full of mixed emotions for all involved. However, there comes a crucial time when the risk of living alone may be too dangerous to a person's physical or mental well being; or caregivers begin to lose their own health and wellness due to physical and emotional stresses.

Most families need reassurance that choosing a long-term care residence is truly an act of compassion, responsible concern, and prudent safety The move signifies a major change for all and a fair amount of grief often experienced by everyone. An appropriate choice for care and a successful transition will later prove to families and loved ones that there can be continued enjoyment and high quality of life for loved ones and relief from daily worry for families.

It is important for families to realize that their care does not end simply because someone is now in long-term care. Especially in the beginning, people with dementia need the familiarity and consistency of their usual contact with those involved in their lives. After a move, new residents seem to adjust and adapt easier when their families continue to play an active role with staff in the caregiving and visiting.

When considering where to find the best placement, families should think about the setting in which the person with dementia will best receive the care they need, while maintaining the right level of independence for their changing abilities. Sometimes adult family homes or assisted living centers offer enough supervised care. If the dementia is more advanced, it may be necessary to seek out 24 hour care in a nursing environment. If possible, plan ahead for these moving decisions. The earlier you do your homework by visiting and selecting a facility, the less stress you will have by rushing to make a decision during a crisis time.

Also, some care centers, especially those with special dementia care wings, may already have waiting lists You may want to get on the waiting list in advance of the time you predict an actual move will take place. Consider whether your family has special placement interests related to location, ethnic or religious affiliations, extra security for wandering, or flexibility to have pets and personal furniture in their rooms.

Helpful questions in considering the need for 24-hour nursing care:

For more information on nursing homes, assisted living, and adult family homes, please call the Alzheimer's Association Helpline at 206-783-6600 or 1-800-848-7097. You may ask for our free booklet entitled, "A Guide for Choosing a New Home."


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