Putting a loved one in a nursing home is a difficult decision regardless of the circumstances. In the case of Alzheimer’s, most research shows that at some point in the progression of the disease a nursing home becomes the right decision for the family in Whippany. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, there are nearly 2 million people currently living in some form of nursing home. Over 90% of these residents are over 65 years old and most require 24 hour supervision due to some physical limitation or dementia.
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Alzheimer’s disease is an extremely sad and difficult condition to work with. This disease is very difficult on the family members in Whippany. Just thinking that as the days slip by your aging loved one will soon become more and more distant. This can be very depressing and an emotional time for most family caregivers. Besides the common emotion of depression, most family members often feel angry, frustrated, and even at a loss for words.
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"Alzheimer's is not a sprint. It's a marathon." This was what the memory care center manager told us during our first care conference. It took a while for this to sink in fully. She was encouraging our family to find a balance between caring for our loved one who has Alzheimer's and still maintaining a life for ourselves. A sprinter focuses on speed for a short distance but soon runs out of strength. Just as a marathon runner trains for endurance, an Alzheimer's caregiver must approach this disease with the long run in mind.
When we first became responsible for an aunt with Alzheimer's, our lives drastically changed. It often felt as if our lives were spinning out of control. There was little time for anything or anyone other than Aunt Betty. We finally realized that it would be impossible to continue at the same pace. If we failed to take care of ourselves, we might not be able to continue caring for her. Alzheimers can be a long, slow process. It is essential that Alzheimers caregivers take care of themselves, too.
Alzheimer's support groups are usually available at churches, community centers, facilities specializing in memory care, and nursing homes. Check your local yellow pages for groups in your area. If you're not comfortable in a group setting, a private session with a licensed counselor or pastor could prove helpful.
Finally, make it a priority to have relationships with others who have no connection with Alzheimer's. Everything in your life does not have to be about the disease. For your own mental, physical, and emotional health, develop friendships with people who can provide an escape.
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I think that, as a group, seniors are some of the most surveyed folks out there. Being in the senior home care business I am more acutely aware of the surveys then the normal person and like to see how the results of those surveys match up to my personal experiences.
More times then not the results do not go beyond the numbers to the underlying cause and effect or at least the feelings of those being surveyed. In a recent survey it was reported that over 80% of seniors would rather live out the rest of their days in the own home and not in an assisted living or similar facility. That's really not breaking news but it started me thinking about why the seniors are so motivated to stay in their home.
I started doing some research by going over my notes from prospective client families, care recipients and also our wonderful care givers. So I have come up with seven reasons why seniors want to stay in their home. These seven do not have real defined borders and have branches or even roots in other reasons.
- Comfort. This reason really bleeds over into the others as well but the senior is comfortable in the house where they have lived for many years. The TV is just the right distance from their chair and doesn't have any reflections on it, they know the HVAC system and where it needs to be for comfort, they have spent years getting the furniture the right size and in the right place. So why should they leave.
- Safety. Now at first glance this might be a reason for going into assisted living but most seniors feel safer at home. They know the sounds of the neighborhood, when neighbors come home and when they leave and most can move around their house and even their yard blindfolded. We have a 94 year old client who is almost totally blind and lives by herself but she knows where everything in her house is, even her meds. She has her morning meds in one location and the bottles are arranged in a specific way and the evening meds are in another location. She feels safe in her environment.
- Memories. They have experienced the entire fabric of life in their home. Birthdays, holidays, including dry turkeys, disappointments and celebrations, medical issues, retirement, aging and death. The home has been the foundation of all that has gone on and they don't want to walk away.
- Independence. From pre-teen years we all strive to achieve independence and now that the senior has had it for so many years they guard it with all the vigor they can muster. If the car keys were taken from the senior earlier then this is the last vestige of independence. Note to family: rescinded driving privileges will be the biggest fight but the home is second.
- Cost. Assisted living expenses can run as much as $4,000 plus a month so staying in one's home can be quite a savings. Add to that the possibility of a reverse mortgage and their monthly bills can be reduced but things like a gardener, pest control, etc have to be managed.
- Network. This term might be used with younger folks but even my 94 year old client has a network...a social network of neighbors and friends who check on her and bring her treats. Many times these social networks are shattered when the senior moves to assisted living. My mother-in-law who lives with us still talks about neighbors she had ten years ago. Don't discount these social connections.
- Family. Many times the family home is just that and there are extra bedrooms for visiting family members. Children of the senior can visit and bring their kids and now you have three generations staying connected in a home environment, not just visiting grandma at an assisted living facility.
Back in the day there were only two choices for seniors and that was stay in their home or live with the children. Now there are so many more choices up to and including resort like living where you eat all your meals in a nice restaurant environment. The choice we made was to have my mother-in-law live with us, it just made sense and we felt better about it. But the transition wasn't easy, especially for mom. But over the years she has settled in and knows exactly how many steps it is from her room to the bathroom.
It is important to hold family meetings with the senior included to discuss how it will work and if additional in home help will be needed for a portion of the day. In home care can make everyone more at ease if it is decided that the senior will be allowed to stay in their home.