How can I help my loved one with Alzheimer’s?

This article is sponsored by National Lutheran Communities and Services

Every November since 1983 has been officially declared Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, when President Ronald Reagan designated the month of November to raise awareness, fewer than 2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s; today that number has risen to approximately 5.4 million and Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

For the past 125 years, National Lutheran Communities & Services has cared for seniors covering a gamut of health needs—especially Alzheimer’s and dementia. While it is difficult to see a loved one decline, especially cognitively, ignoring the symptoms of potential problems will not help.  Arming yourself with information is the best preventative step you can take.

Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, researchers have discovered ways to improve brain health, decreasing the risk for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Paul D. Nussbaum, Ph.D. cites “Five Things You Must Do to Keep Your Brain Young and Sharp.” These include:

  • Physical activity
  • Socialization
  • Mental stimulation
  • Spirituality
  • Nutrition

More information on the above techniques can be found under resource papers at helpingyourparents.org.

When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the information is often scary and overwhelming. There are many resources available to families making decisions regarding their loved one’s care. Many grown children will decide to take on the role of caregiver. If this is an option, some of the questions to ask yourself include:

  • Can your loved one maintain some independence?
  • Do you have adequate space?
  • Does your lifestyle allow for your loved one to live with you?
  • Can you adequately address your loved one’s health needs?
  • Do you live near your loved one’s social network?
  • What impact will this have on your personal lifestyle and your loved one’s lifestyle?

If families are willing to take on the caregiving role but unable to meet every need, one option available is to contract with a home care agency. Home care agencies can offer assistance with basic activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, grocery shopping, transportation to doctor’s appointments, meal preparation and companionship. Some agencies will even offer home health, which brings skilled nursing services directly into the home if and when they are needed.

If taking on the role of caregiver is not an option, families can examine retirement communities that offer Alzheimer’s care, often called memory care or memory support. When researching this option be sure to:

  • Check online reviews
  • Check state surveys
  • Check the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ star rankings
  • Ask about programming and how it is targeted to work with Alzheimer’s
  • Conduct a site visit and meet with staff to experience what the community is like
  • Pay attention to how staff interact with residents and their loved ones

All of these details will help you make an informed decision when it comes to your loved one’s care.

National Lutheran Communities & Services believes being a resource is an important service to our mission and to seniors and their families.  As loved ones age, we are often faced with tough decisions. In some cases, those decisions are a result of a health crisis; other times it is an ongoing condition that worsens with time. To help navigate the challenges associated with making a decision on a loved one’s care, we have developed a resource-based website, offering information on everything from financial options, ways to start the conversation, keeping your parents safe at home and so much more. Visit helpingyourparents.org today.

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