Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia typically develop in stages (DEV NOTE to link to the 7 stages page). The early stages may not require the care provided in a memory care facility. However, as the disease progresses, more and more care is needed, and sufferers are typically unable to live at home.
In the United States, more than 16 million Americans provide unpaid caregiving services for individuals with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. (DEV NOTE to link to the guide about caregiving at home for ALZ.) Since the disease continues to progress, caring for an Alzheimer’s individual becomes increasingly demanding. Over time, this can negatively impact the caregiver’s quality of life, their ability to work full-time and their stress levels, which can lead to caregiver burnout.
To overcome caregiver burnout, many people turn to memory care for their loved ones. It’s a difficult decision to make but often is a necessity. Memory care can provide 24/7 support and a community of friends for your loved one. It can be challenging to know when to make the transition from at-home care to professional memory care. The below nine warning signs are indicators that it might be time to start considering memory care for your loved one.
1. Ignoring Personal Hygiene
If you notice that your loved one’s personal hygiene starts to decline, it’s likely a sign that they’re no longer able to care for their personal needs. This is a common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease in which simple tasks such as brushing teeth, bathing and putting on fresh clothing become difficult. This symptom may eventually get to the point an individual can’t bathe or use the toilet without assistance.
If you’re unable to supervise your loved one and ensure they’re taking proper care of their hygiene, it might be time for help. A caregiver can ensure your loved one’s personal hygiene needs are met. This can include making sure they’ve brushed their teeth and showered, taking them to hair and nail appointments, and helping them choose clean clothes every day.
2. Mistakes With Medications and Missed Doctor Appointments
Often, people who have Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia are older and have other medical issues. Many older Americans take several daily medications to manage chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, they often require frequent doctor appointments to check on these conditions.
An individual with Alzheimer’s may start to forget to take their medications and attend medical appointments. This can be detrimental to their health. In some cases, missing medications or accidentally taking too much can lead to accidental overdoses, serious medical complications and even hospitalizations.
If these issues have become a concern with your loved one, consider whether you have the time to monitor their medications and doctor visits. If the answer is no, it might be time for memory care. These medication mistakes can have life-threatening consequences, so it’s essential to act promptly.
3. Difficulty With Daily Routine
As dementia progresses, individuals become incapable of performing many daily tasks independently. This quite a broad statement but often comes with some typical warning signs, such as:
- Stacks of unpaid bills
- Mail that isn’t opened
- A dirty home
- Forgetting to grocery shop
- Forgetting to take out the garbage
- Inability to cook meals
- Failure to dress appropriately for the weather
These are just a few examples of your loved one being unable to keep up with necessary tasks, which may put their health or financial situation at risk. If you can’t take over these tasks, memory care may provide a solution.
When an individual is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, they often take to wandering. This can be because your loved one gets confused about where they are, how they got there or how to get home.
Wandering can be very dangerous as the individual can get lost and struggle to find their way home. They can fall, get hurt, become dehydrated or be exposed to harsh weather in the winter or summer. A loved one might even wake up confused during the night and go off wandering.
If you notice that your loved one has started to wander frequently, you’ll need to monitor them closely. There are resources online that share tips for how families can reduce the risk of wandering in an Alzheimier’s patient. Memory care facilities can provide your loved one with a secure, monitored area to explore without fear they’ll get lost.
5. Shakiness and Fall Hazards
Advanced stages of Alzheimer’s can often cause an individual to become shaky and unsteady on their feet. This might start to cause them to fall frequently, which can increase their risk of severe injuries, hospital visits and even death.
When your loved one shows signs of unsteadiness, it’s time for memory care placement. They will be the safest in a memory care home where they have access to 24/7 supervision and medical staff on standby.
6. Signs of Depression and Social Isolation
People with dementia and Alzheimer’s often begin to isolate themselves socially. One of the reasons for this may be the embarrassment and difficulties that come with the disease. Often, following a conversation becomes difficult, which can make talking to people challenging and embarrassing.
Social isolation can also be a sign of depression. Other symptoms of depression include a loss of interest in hobbies, sudden changes in weight and increased fatigue. If your loved one is experiencing depression, it’s essential to take steps to help them. You can maintain regular contact with your loved one but also hire a caregiver to keep them company. Having a constant companion interacting on a social level is beneficial for their mental, emotional and physical well-being. A memory care facility can provide your loved one a group of people to interact with, as well as social activities throughout the day.
7. Unpleasant Personality Changes
Sundowner syndrome is a term for a common symptom that develops in the later stages of dementia where the person experiences emotional outbursts. These personality changes and outbursts typically occur as day transitions to evening. The person’s personality seems to shift, and they become easily angered, agitated, or suspicious.
These extreme personality changes and shifts in mood can be difficult for family caregivers to manage. Experienced medical professionals have the training to handle these outbursts. Additionally, they’re removed from your loved one, so they won’t take these incidents personally.
8. Extreme Memory Loss
Advanced dementia can result in severe memory loss. This can present itself in various ways, such as forgetting loved ones’ names, confusing family members and forgetting addresses.
When you notice these incidents are occurring more frequently, it’s time to evaluate the impact of what this means for your loved one. Severe memory loss can cause your loved one to forget how to use the phone in an emergency or be unable to realize that an emergency is occurring. Or, they may be more susceptible to scam artists.
As a result of the memory loss, they may now require constant monitoring so they don’t get lost. It also may become more challenging to hold a conversation with them. Professional memory care can help to reduce the risks associated with severe memory loss, so your loved one is protected.
9. Caregiver Stress
As an untrained caregiver of a loved one, you may come to a point where you’re completely overwhelmed. If you’re trying to balance work, life responsibilities and full-time caregiving, you can quickly become stressed.
Caregiver burnout is a valid condition. As dementia worsens, the caretaker is expected to take on more and more responsibility. This can be exhausting as a person attempts to take on full-time care in addition to their regular responsibilities. Additionally, many caregivers end up letting their own health go in an attempt to prioritize their loved one.
You shouldn’t feel guilty if you experience caregiver burnout. People are told to put oxygen masks on themselves if an airplane is in trouble before helping others. The same is true here. If you push yourself too hard, you won’t be able to care for yourself or your loved one. Seeking professional assistance can allow you to refocus on spending quality time with your loved one versus managing their care.