When your loved one receives a diagnosis of dementia, you can feel a mix of emotions ranging from anxiety to relief. An important part of your new role as an advocate and caregiver is understanding the disease so that you and your loved one can plan for their current and future needs. Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia certainly come with challenges, and flexibility along with advanced planning will go a long way toward keeping your loved one safe and healthy.
Challenge No. 1: Wandering or Becoming Lost
The Alzheimer’s Association reports that six in every 10 people with Alzheimer’s disease will wander, or walk without a purpose. This is a common challenge throughout the disease’s progression, including the very early stages when it may look like your loved one getting lost in the grocery store or on the way home. Throughout the middle stages of the disease, wandering can mean roaming throughout the house or unattended throughout the neighborhood. In any case, wandering is unnerving and unsafe.
You can prepare for wandering by ensuring that your loved one has identification on them at all times, including your contact information. Also, coordinate family members and friends to take your loved one on walks and errands. Finally, begin the conversation about eliminating driving from your loved one’s responsibilities.
Challenge No. 2: Agitation and Anxiety
Mood disruptions are quite common in all stages of dementia progression, and some are more serious than others. Agitation and anxiety can significantly decrease your loved one’s capacity to participate in daily tasks from showering to meal preparation to inviting friends inside.
You can prepare for mood disruptions by talking candidly with your loved one’s physician when you see frequent changes. Remember, mood should not disrupt daily activities; when it does, it is time to get help.
Challenge No. 3: Poor Nutrition
As dementia progresses, daily tasks become nearly impossible. For example, preparing a meal, eating it, and safely storing leftovers is a multistep process that even those who are living through the early stages of the disease can have trouble with. Poor nutrition can lead to more than just weight loss; decreased immune response and healing can quickly follow.
Prepare for poor nutrition by signing your loved one up for Meals on Wheels services or coordinating transportation to a community congregate meal site.
Challenge No. 4: Isolation
Seniors living through the early stages of dementia often know they are forgetting things, which can make them feel embarrassed or self-conscious. As the disease progresses, they may no longer have the skills to initiate social interactions with neighbors, friends, or family. In any case, isolation can occur quickly and lead to depression or even accelerated cognitive loss.
Prepare for isolation by creating safe and less-stimulating social interactions for your loved one and their close friends or family members.
Challenge No. 5: Inability to Safely and Successfully Live at Home
Most older adults living with a type of dementia cannot live at home alone or with a partner for the duration of the disease. Safety concerns, social isolation, and other health factors make living at home a poor long-term decision. Fortunately, senior living communities can provide the structure and safety your loved one needs to remain healthy and happy.
If possible, begin your search for a senior living community before a major health or cognitive crisis causes an emergency placement. Instead, involve your loved one in the process of finding their new home. Find a senior living community that offers specialized memory care, with trained staff who understand the nuances of dementia care.
If you or your loved one has just been diagnosed with the disease, empower yourself or them by learning more. Begin by downloading “Living Well with Dementia,” our free guide written in partnership with residents in our Arbor communities who have dementia themselves.
Then, visit an Arbor community near you to see exceptional dementia care in action. Our specialized Evergreen memory care neighborhoods provide support, socialization, and a home environment for each of our residents. For more than 30 years, we have been honored to care for seniors who are living with dementia, fostering meaningful relationships with our residents and their family members.
You don’t have to meet these challenges alone. Let us help.