Dementia and Alzheimer’s Care: Planning and Preparing for the Road Ahead

Having a loved one who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia brings on a wave of emotions, which may include anxiety over their future care. Each of these ailments comes with their share of challenges for patients and caregivers alike, and caring for someone with each disease is often very stressful. However, arming yourself with information and support can help make the journey less challenging for all. Before making decisions on how to best care for your loved one, you should be prepared for scenarios that you may have to face down the road. 

Plan for the Long Term

When a loved one is diagnosed with any disease, the person stepping into the caregiver role usually learns as much as they can about the disease, and for those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it is critical. If your loved one is early on in the disease, they can help you make decisions about their long term care. You and your family member should talk about who will be responsible for care decisions if they can no longer make them. It is also important to engage in legal and financial planning at the early stages. According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s Caregiver Center, “In order to plan for financial needs during the course of Alzheimer’s disease, you’ll need to consider all the costs you might face now and in the future. Since Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, the type and level of care needed will change over time.” The site advises that costs include medication, safety and home remodeling costs, in-home care services and long-term care services, among many others. Planning for these expenses ahead of time can help you adjust your budget accordingly, and it will give you time to research financing options. 

Recognize the Signs

As a person with Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease experiences cognitive decline, they may reach a point in which you as a caregiver can’t provide adequate care. At this point, it may be necessary to hire an in-home caregiver or to move them into a special facility. The Alzheimer’s Association offers the following advice when determining whether or not your loved one has progressed to the middle stage of the disease. “You may notice the person with Alzheimer’s jumbling words, having trouble dressing, getting frustrated or angry, or acting in unexpected ways, such as refusing to bathe.” Although it will likely be extremely difficult to transfer care to a professional, doing so is likely the best option for your loved one. 

Seek Support

People who find themselves thrust into the role of caregiver to a person with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia often become so overwhelmed with their new responsibilities, When you find yourself in this role, consider joining a support group. By doing so, you can connect with other people who are dealing with the same issues, and you can learn from one another. The National Institute on Aging offers a wealth of resources that you can use to find one in your area. Along with in person support groups, many organizations offer groups that you can join online that will enable you to speak with people at your convenience. Many of these groups also offer resources and information you can use to help you in your role as a caregiver. 

Learning that your loved one has Alzheimer’s or Dementia can be an emotional period, as you prepare for the inevitable decline of their mental abilities. However, by including them in the decisions at the beginning of the process, learning all you can about the disease’s progression and knowing when to call in a professional, you can ease your transition into the caregiver role. Seeking a support group may also help you deal with the new emotions that come with the diagnosis. By being prepared and establishing a supportive environment, you can both face the challenge head on.