Yes, there are people available to help, so you can enjoy a well-earned respite. I’m sure at some point your loved one living with dementia has experienced a hospital stay or perhaps even been sent to a rehabilitation facility or nursing community. You may have been approached by an on-staff social worker whose job it is to make recommendations, some of which might be worthwhile. Cautiously keep in mind that most of these referrals come from a list that was put together by their supervisors and 98 percent of the list will be compiled from “sister companies” which is an obvious prejudice. If the facility is suggesting a certain nursing home, don’t be afraid to ask if they have ever set foot inside it themselves.
As much as I wish it would not come to placing dementia patients in nursing facilities, a time comes when you may no longer be able to provide the care they need at home. But be forewarned that drastic changes may advance, once you break them from their daily routine. You will likely notice the deterioration of their memory almost immediately. However, once they get used to their new routine, they should balance out. You might be told it’s because you no longer see them on a day-to-day basis. From what I’ve seen, the dismantling of their routine life leaves them in a new world of confusion that’s extremely difficult to overcome at first.
If you search hard enough, hopefully you will find a suitable facility. One of the top things you need to look at is how qualified and trained the staff members are in dealing with dementia patients. Are they required to take a course in memory-impairment? Some companies have gone from making their staff take a two-day course to only a one-hour online class. This is most irresponsible.
Learn how they supervise wandering patients; also talk to the activity director to find out what activities he or she has for the memory-impaired.
This is a big one: ask how they feel about the patients having the right to continue using their regular physician. You might have to transport them to their own doctor yourself, but it may be well worth it.
Once patients become residents, they will most likely hit you with a handful of complaints. Before you go off half-cocked, investigate to see how much truth is behind these accusations. “They haven’t fed me in days,” is a frequent lament. Next you will likely hear them say over and over that their personal property has been stolen. It might be true but remember how suspicious the person with dementia mind has become. If you feel something has to be said to the staff, say it. You are the voice for that person. If you feel the need to speak out–do it!
When visiting your loved ones, please do not keep telling yourself, “What difference does it make if I visit them. They won’t remember anyway.” Your being there will make a positive difference. Trust me. You might be all they have left. There will be times when you walk in and they don’t remember you. But the times they do will mean the world to both of you.