What To Do When You Get An Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Getting an official diagnosis that memory lapses are the result of Alzheimer’s or dementia is life-altering. If you or your loved one still function “normally” in day-to-day life, it can be tempting to go into denial and pretend as if everything’s just fine until there are more obvious or alarming signs that compromise the quality of life.

The truth is, however, that fast-action is the key to creating both short- and long-term care plans. There is still no cure for Alzheimer’s, and it is considered a progressive disease. The rate at which it progresses varies for each person, but it can happen more rapidly than expected, and this places the person with Alzheimer’s, his/her spouse, and loved ones in a crisis state.

Taking Timely, Methodical Actions After An Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

The more you learn about Alzheimer’s, and Alzheimer’s resources in your area, the faster you’ll be able to establish a personalized plan of action.

The goal is to give the person with Alzheimer’s ability to make some decisions for him/herself whenever possible. This becomes challenging – and then impossible – as the condition progresses because transitions are detrimental if you wait too long.

Learn about the disease and current treatment options

Hopefully, your medical team, including the neurologist, have provided you with lots of information about Alzheimer’s, all together it’s progression, and the known medications, lifestyle changes and treatment options that support a patient’s wellbeing.

Other helpful resources for learning about Alzheimer’s include:

Don’t hesitate to call or email your primary physician to schedule a follow-up appointment, so you can ask questions and listen to the answers you may not have been able to take in during the immediate consultation after the Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Start the conversation regarding memory care options

Memory care will play a role at some point, and the quality of this care – and its ability to improve the quality of life for your loved one – is 100% related to how soon s/he transitions into the right community. This will probably require multiple conversations as you weigh the pros and cons of various options, and tour facilities and communities.

While the idea of staying home is preferred by many, caregiving for a middle- to late-stage Alzheimer’s patient is a full-time job. 

Unfortunately, contrary to the original plan, many spouses or close family members realize too late that they aren’t capable of providing the level of care required, 24/7. That results in a very traumatic transition into memory care, assisted living or nursing home care – and it may mean having to give up your first-choice if they don’t have space when you finally make a decision.

Tour your options as soon as you can

It’s helpful for prospective residents to tour memory care options themselves so they have some autonomy in the decision. However, we understand that this can be scary and nerve-wracking for many – and that some simply refuse to do it all together.

If your loved one is resistant to touring options with you, we recommend inviting a close family member or friend to accompany and support you. You might find starting the process solo – bringing back information and ideas – will motivate your spouse or loved one to accompany you the next time.

Read,Questions to Ask When Touring Memory Care Facilities, so you get the information and details you need to make a good decision.

Start to plan for the financial side of things

Memory care is an expense – whether you’re hiring full-time caregivers in your home or you transition into a memory care center. Unless your financial plan already accommodated for extended, long-term care of some kind – you’ll need to start preparing your finances.

Read,Affording Alzheimer’s Care, for some helpful ideas and tips for funding high-quality memory care.

There are situations where Medicare and Medicaid can subsidize expenses, but they rarely pay for the entirety of the costs associated with memory care. After establishing memory care options in your area, their administration and staff will help you review the realm of financial and payment choices available to you.

Keep your loved one as engaged and active as possible

Studies show over and over again that early action in terms of diet, lifestyle habits, social engagement, and mental stimulation are all key to slowing down and decreasing the progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Often, the shock or embarrassment of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, combined with the complications associated with fading memory and social situations, leads to social isolation. This is a worst-case scenario because mental and social stimulation keeps those neural pathways open and firing.

Try to find daily activities, outings, and social settings that inspire feelings of connections, safety, and security for your loved one. This could also include taking advantage of adult day care options at a prospective memory care center as part of the transition into becoming a resident.

Establish your support network

Being a spouse, partner, or primary caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s is a challenging job. You are going to need a range of support to help along the way.

Ideas include:

It takes a village to care for both those with Alzheimer’s as well as their spouses, family members, and loved ones. Establishing your support network while you have the time and space to do so allows you to activate support options as needed down the road.

Handling A Loved One’s Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Remember: there is never a need to go it alone. 

After an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, enlist the support of family and friends to help you move forward – step-by-step.

Learn more about your loved one’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and find support in these articles: 

The Latest Alzheimer’s Facts, Figures & Stats [2020]

Medicine’s understanding of Alzheimer’s, and its effects on the human brain, is still in the pioneering phases. While we learn more all the time about how genetics, life events, and lifestyle components are involved in catalyzing the initial signs and progression of Alzheimer’s, the cure remains elusive.

With respect to the ever-emerging science pertaining to the causes, treatments, and potential for Alzheimer’s disease, we update our Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet regularly to reflect the current research.

Accurate Facts, Figures, & Stats Improve Alzheimer’s Quality of Life

The more you remain up to date on the current research and studies’ findings, including Alzheimer’s facts, figures, and stats, the better you can improve the quality of life for yourself and the ones you love.

First, we’ll begin with some basic, bullet-point facts about Alzheimer’s disease (AD), followed by more detailed information to support the care and support provided for those with AD. The following facts are derived from two helpful AD resources: The NIH’s page on Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Alzinfo.org.

Visit our Resource Guide for Alzheimer’s Care & Support for more helpful AD websites.

  • AD is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States
  • Most people with late-onset AD exhibit signs and symptoms as early as their 60s, even if the diagnosis doesn’t happen until much later (more on that below).
  • Experts believe that AD-related changes in the brain may actually start as much as ten years before the beginning symptoms are detectable.
  • Early-onset AD comprises about 10% of the Alzheimer’s population and is typically noticed/diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60.
  • Someone is diagnosed with AD about every 65 seconds.
  • Doctors predict as many as 14 million Americans will be living with Alzheimer’s by the year 2050.
  • One-third of all seniors die with Alzheimer’s or some other dementia-related condition
  • It costs about 350K per person to support the long-term health and wellbeing of an AD patient (read, Is Medicare/Medicaid an Option… for information about financing the care you need).
  • There are multiple forms of AD and dementia – early-onset, late-onset, Lewy Body, Parkinson’s-related, etc. Care and treatment plans may vary depending on the type.
  • Alzheimer’s genes (and other biomarkers) are identified, but they are not the sole cause of AD, nor does the presence of the genes mean an individual will get AD. 
  • There is no specific treatment for AD or dementia, although some drug treatment protocols slow its progression.
  • Certain lifestyle changes have been shown to slow down the progression of AD.

Those last two points are part of what makes living with Alzheimer’s so challenging. There are not always clear reasons why a person has the disease, and there is no tried-and-true treatment for AD at this time.

This is why ongoing research around Alzheimer’s potential causes and treatment methods is so important. The more we learn about the brain and how it is affected by Alzheimer’s-related proteins, amyloid plaques, and tau tangles, the closer we get to a potential cure. 

Early Diagnosis is Key

Because Alzheimer’s is often diagnosed at the beginning of the middle-stage, when cognitive impairment is too dramatic to ignore, patients, families, and caregivers miss the opportunity to make decisions before things are chaotic and stressful. By diagnosing AD in the early stages, you have time to:

  • Learn all you can and make a long-term AD care plan that involves the individuals’ wishes, desires, and goals
  • Make smart decisions about caregivers or facilities
  • Tour memory care centers
  • Implement diet and lifestyle changes that reduce inflammation and support a healthier mind and body.

Read What to Do About an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis to learn more about the first, critical items to consider in the wake of an official diagnosis.

Re-Evaluate Diet & Make Anti-inflammatory Shifts

Recent studies have shown that high-fat, high-sugar diets “prime the brain” for AD. Diets that are higher in fats, sugars, and processed foods contribute to inflammation in both the hippocampus and the frontal lobe of the brain, two areas that experience AD decline. 

Patients who have AD and who maintain their high-fat/sugar diets tend to progress more rapidly through the disease’s stages and have lower life expectancies. Making the switch to an inflammatory diet is a powerful one. The Fischer Center for Alzheimer’s Research writes, “Older men and women who ate a Mediterranean-style diet showed less shrinkage of the brain than their peers who did not eat foods typical of the Mediterranean region.”

Click here to read more about anti-inflammatory, Alzheimer’s-oriented diet recommendations.

Establish a Healthy Circadian Rhythm

You may have heard about sundowner’s syndrome, or you may have personal experience with it if you’re currently an AD caregiver. The more we learn about the body’s need for natural daylight and dark to maintain essential biochemical balance in the brain, the more there is a need to establish a healthy circadian rhythm in the home.

Alz.org’s page on Sleep Issues & Sundowning offers tips for how to establish healthy daily and nighttime rhythms to prevent these issues and support brain health. When you begin looking for long-term care options, make sure to ask about how they help to prevent and support sundowning for their residents.

Social Engagement & Activities Are Essential

The NIH states in addition to healthy diet and lifestyle practices, “… social engagement, and mentally stimulating pursuits…might also help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.” 

If your loved one tends to retreat into depressed, anxious, or embarrassed seclusion, get in touch with Alzheimer’s support groups in your area, and learn how to keep AD patients socially stimulated and engaged to boost morale and their quality of life. 

Your busy calendar doesn’t have to be put on hold. Contact Adult Day Care or Respite Care options in your area to keep your loved one safe and ensure s/he remains social, participating in activities s/he enjoys to promote overall well being.

Click the links below for more helpful information on memory care and supporting your loved one through their Alzheimer’s diagnosis. 

Keeping Your Loved One With Dementia At Home: Is It The Best Option?

Deciding when to move a loved one from home-based care to a memory care center is a difficult topic. In most cases, spouses and families opt to wait until their loved one is in the middle- to later-stages of memory care in order to keep them at home – in a familiar space – as long as possible.

While these intentions are sound, the reality is that those with dementia and Alzheimer’s seem to experience longer, higher-quality lives when they are moved to a memory care center sooner rather than later.

Moving Into Memory Care Sooner Offers Higher Quality of Living

Here are some of the reasons quality of life is improved when spouses, parents, or loved ones move into a memory care center rather than remaining at home.

Keep ahead of the memory decline curve

A succinct post on alzheimers.net describes how Alzheimer’s evolves from preclinical Alzheimer’s (the first symptoms) to the late stages of severe cognitive decline. 

By moving a loved one into memory care center ahead of the “moderate decline” point on the curve, you improve the quality of your loved one’s life because:

  • Residents have the ability to settle in, learn their way around and become familiar with the staff, their neighbors and medical professionals while they still have cognitive function.
  • 100% of their daily life is geared toward memory care specific-diets, activities, routines, outings, etc., which keeps them active and engaged.
  • They are closely monitored by experienced clinical and medical staff who can notice and address any shifts, declines, or behaviors that are immediately improved via changes in medication, treatments, or therapies.

Research continues to show that while dementia isn’t reversible in most cases, dementia-specific care and attention notably slows its progression. And, the health professionals working at memory care centers are always at the forefront of the latest memory care research and treatment options.

Continuous social engagement

In most cases, pre-dementia life involves far more personal and social engagement, along with mental stimulation, than the post-dementia diagnosis lifestyle. 

This is especially true if the person is taken care of at home. The comfort of home and increasing care from immediate family members and caregivers is valuable, but it almost inevitably leads to an individual who spends most of his/her time sitting or lying down, not very engaged with those around them, rapidly turning inward on themselves.

While the initial transition may be emotionally difficult, it’s amazing to see how those with earlier stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s blossom when they move into their new memory care environment. 

For one thing, there is no reason to maintain a pretense of “normalcy” – which is incredibly taxing for those who remain among their cognitively healthy family and friends. That “acting to keep it together” becomes a great strain.

Instead, the barriers can go down, the unknown can be explored and embraced with others in the same situation, and there is a whole new world of activities that are all geared for their wellbeing. 

Also, due to innovations such as Town Center concepts and village-like designs, memory care residents’ world becomes more vibrant (and manageable) as a result of their new environment.

Extended life expectancy and quality of life

Those who work in the very special realm of memory care know that residents who move here earlier get more comfortable and assimilate more quickly into their new life. They are more social and active, participate more willingly in the spectrum of amenities and activities offered at The Memory Center. 

As a result, those who move here during the earlier- to early-mid stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia live an average of two years longer than their counterparts.

On the other hand, individuals who move here during the later stages of the disease have the same life expectancy of those who move into more traditional nursing homes – somewhere around six months on average – because they simply don’t have the ability to enjoy all of the resources a memory care center offers them.

Ask yourself who you are protecting or taking care of

In the deep and heartfelt conversations, we have the honor and privilege to facilitate with our residents’ families, we often witness a spouse or child caregiver come to a painful awareness.

This wrenching revelation is that they waited so long to transition their beloved mate or family member into memory care because they, themselves, were having a difficult time accepting the new reality.

In many cases, the individual with dementia or Alzheimer’s asked to move or encouraged their caregivers to let them move somewhere else, but guilt or a feeling of resistance held their caregiver back. You may feel like moving them somewhere is a surrender of your obligation when, in fact, it allows you to reclaim a more loving, connected relationship.

Is there any chance your resistance has more to do with a personal desire to “keep things as they are?”. Is your fear that memory care isn’t affordable a means of shielding yourself from the reality of the situation and what’s best for the one you love and hate to see go? 

If so, we recommend taking advantage of one or more of the amazing outlets for Alzheimer’s support here in our area to help you work through your feelings.

If finances are a concern, read, How to Find Affordable Memory Care & Assisted Living, to see if there are any avenues or resources you’ve yet to tap.

Ensuring A Smooth Transition Into Memory Care

We assure you that transitioning a loved one into the right memory care facility will enhance everyone’s life – freeing up time and space to explore the new relationship that must be forged with a dementia diagnosis, as well as your new paths forward.

There is always time required to form a new plan after receiving dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis. However, research shows that the sooner memory care and treatment are available, the better it is for most individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Learn more from these helpful resources: 

How To Move A Parent With Dementia To Assisted Living

Moving a parent or senior loved one with dementia into an assisted living or memory care community is a major transition. It’s an emotional journey and there are bound to be upsets and logistical challenges along the way.

Understanding How To Move A Parent With Dementia To Assisted Living

Having a go-to list of tips and suggestions can help you and your family better prepare to move a parent with dementia to assisted living while ensuring s/he receives impeccable care.

Start A Conversation Early (depending on the stage of memory loss)

If possible, begin making the long-term care plan as early as possible after the dementia diagnosis.

If your parent or loved one is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, looking ahead to find the right community allows them to be a part of the process, which can make for a smoother transition when moving day arrives.

Ideally, the time to move to a community is when s/he is no longer able to live safely and independently at home or when the level of care required becomes more than what you and/or other caregivers are able to provide from a time and safety perspective.

On the flip side, if your loved one is in mid-to later-stages of the disease, it can be upsetting to engage him/her in selecting a community and planning moving day.  In some cases, it is better to wait until the change is eminent to announce the move, and enlist the help of family and friends for decision-making, sorting, and packing.

Visit our Guide for Talking to a Loved One About Memory Care for more insight into this topic.

Choose A Community Specializing In Memory Care

Not all assisted living communities are created equal, and many of them aren’t equipped to adequately care for residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia.  Moving is challenging enough, and the last thing you want to do is have to move your parent a second time unless you absolutely must, so it is important to select the right community specializing in memory care.

Use these Questions to Ask When Visiting Memory Care Communities to help you select the best new home for your loved one.

Consider Visiting The New Assisted Living Community Together Before Moving Day

Familiarity is key to feeling safe.

Once a community is selected, some people find visiting the community a few times before moving day helps ease the transition. You and your loved one may consider attending and participating in activities and events, meeting other residents with similar interests and interacting with staff.  

Each of these visits proactively builds layers of familiarity.

Schedule The Move For Their “Best Time Of The Day”

Typically, late mornings and early afternoons are a dementia patient’s “best time of the day.” Early mornings and evenings may be more difficult.

The transition from one home to the next will be less stressful when your parent is most likely to be calm, allowing more time to settle in before s/he becomes fatigued or agitated.

Bring A Simple Collection Of Favorite Things

Odds are their new room is smaller than their current home, and clutter is a recipe for confusion and trip hazards.

If you haven’t received information from the assisted living community director or staff about what to bring from home, give them a call to find out how much is “just enough” to bring.

In some communities, rooms come furnished, but you should still be able to bring touches from home such as a favorite chair, wall art, personalized bedding, a CD player or iPod/docking station to play his/her favorite music.

At The Memory Center, our rooms are unfurnished to allow residents and their families to more closely recreate a space that looks and feels like home.

Having familiar pieces from home helps new residents settle in more quickly. And again, be careful about asking your parent “which item(s) do you want to take with you…,” as these types of decisions can be agitating in later stages of the disease.

We recommend reading Making A New Space In Assisted Living Or Memory Care Feel Like Home for more information on this important topic.

Take Advantage Of Counseling Services & Transition Programs

This is a major physical transition, to be sure, but it’s also a major emotional transition for everyone involved.

Often, spouses and family members are the most dramatically affected as they watch their loved one settle seamlessly into place while the rest of the family is experiencing a sense of grief. If your parent opts to move into assisted living in the earlier stages of dementia, you may find support from a counselor valuable who can help you or your family process the complex array of emotions the transition elicits.

If you’ve been an integral part of your parent’s dementia care, we suggest reading, Adjusting to Life…After Being a Caregiver, which offers nourishing tips on how to handle your next steps.

Communicate With The New Caregiving Staff

First and foremost, the staff want to get to know new residents. The more they know about your parent, the easier it is to spark conversations and connect with him/her as s/he settles in.

Additionally, it’s helpful to lean on the staff and allow them to explain the new transition and to support your parent during the move. Again, choosing a memory care-specific community means the administration and staff are well-versed experts and will know exactly what to say without causing further confusion or upset for your parent.

Carefully Deciding How to Move A Parent With Dementia To Assisted Living

As with all life transitions, mindful and methodical preparation is the key to minimizing mental and emotional stress. Selecting an assisted living center that specializes in memory care will provide the support you need throughout the move.

You may find interest in these related articles:

 

 

 

Understanding Dementia

Please join The Memory Center Atlanta and Dr. Mohan for an important and informative talk on Dementia. Leave with valuable resources and an improved understanding of the Dementia diagnosis. A light dinner will be served at no charge. Space is limited, so reserve your spot by RSVP to 770-476-3678.

 

Richmond Resource Guide For Alzheimer’s Care And Support

Suspecting a loved one has Alzheimer’s is anxiety-inducing, but the official confirmation from a GP or neurologist is life changing.

From that moment on, it’s important to have current, accurate and easy-to-access information about Alzheimer’s, what to expect and the best means of supporting the well-being of both the individual diagnosed, as well as his/her team of caregivers.

While an adjustment period is understandable, we recommend taking action as quickly as you can in order to create a long-term care plan that resonates with current research and findings pertaining to Alzheimer’s care best practices.

Upon getting an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, you have much to explore and consider, including:

  • Diet modifications
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Memory care options
  • And more

The sooner you do this, the more involved the patient can be with making decisions that will impact the rest of his/her life.

Locate High-Quality Online Alzheimer’s Resources

There is a myriad of results when you search, “Alzheimer’s Care” or “Alzheimer’s Research,” but not all resources are created equal.

The most accurate and relevant information available online is typically provided via national organizations and well-known non-profits (usually website addresses ending with .org, .gov or .edu).

The more you learn about Alzheimer’s, the better your decision-making process. Also, you are your loved one’s greatest advocate. Well-meaning physicians, nurses, and caregivers do their best, but there’s a chance that something you’ve learned will be essential to improving your loved one’s care and overall outcomes.

Here are some of our favorite, online resources about Alzheimer’s, memory care and the latest research/findings.

The National Institute on Aging’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has several sub-entities under its umbrella; one of these is the National Institute on Aging (NIA).

The NIA has an incredibly thorough webpage that covers all manner of age-related diseases and conditions, and their page dedicated to Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias is a great place to begin learning more about Alzheimer’s and the current treatments at your own pace.

Their website has easy-to-read (and share) pages on the basics of Alzheimer’s, as well as the various forms of Alzheimer’s and dementia. This is important because medications, treatments, and care can vary depending on the type of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

For example, while the symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia are similar to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the wrong medications can worsen the patient’s experience and symptoms if it is misdiagnosed and treated using more standard Alzheimer’s treatments.

The Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association was founded specifically to eliminate Alzheimer’s via high-quality research.

It’s a voluntary organization and, in addition to information about Alzheimer’s as well as the latest research and upcoming trials, the AA also works to connect those affected by Alzheimer’s in the Richmond, VA area with< a href=”https://www.thememorycenter.com/alzheimers-support-group-at-the-memory-center-richmond/”> the support they need.

The AA is a joint venture, including the work of healthcare professionals, caregivers, and family members just like you. To date, the Alzheimer’s Associations has provided support for millions of people nationwide.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

One of the most effective resources offered by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is their Alzheimer’s Support Hotline (866-232-8484).

This toll-free number is staffed 24/7, by licensed clinical social workers who specialize in Alzheimer’s and dementia-related conditions. Speaking with them can feel like a lifeline, especially for those who are newly navigating the vast array of information out there, or who have yet to confide in family members and friends.

AFA is also non-profit and is dedicated to spreading the word that a proactive approach to Alzheimer’s has a significant effect on slowing down its progression and relieving or diminishing symptoms.

They also provide FREE and confidential memory screenings in Richmond and nationwide.

Alzheimer’s Support From Family & Friends

Often, those who are newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – as well as their spouses – decide to hide what they know for the time being.

The problem with this is multi-fold; first, it’s confusing for family and friends who are noticing the same signs and symptoms as you did but without any explanation or further insight.

Secondly, your family and friends are an invaluable resource as you begin to learn more about the disease and when it comes to providing certain aspects of care – as well as respite care.

We recommend reading our Guide for Talking to a Loved One About Memory Care, as it covers important information about the communication and decision-making processes, as well as tips on how to include family and friends.

Research Memory Care Options

As mentioned above, research shows that those with Alzheimer’s and dementia do notably better when provided with dedicated memory care.

In most circumstances, those with Alzheimer’s have the best outlook and highest quality of life when they move to memory care communities sooner, rather than later. This enables individuals time to settle in, feel comfortable, and adjust to their new home while they still have the ability to make decisions for themselves.  

Assisted Living Options

If you’re considering an assisted living facility, make sure they offer a separate wing or sections specializing in memory care so your loved one doesn’t wind up becoming part of their general residential population – the large majority of which have a different set of needs.

Use, How to Compare Assisted Living Facilities, as a guide to better weigh each prospects’ offerings.

Respite Care

Inevitably, the first level of care provided for those with Alzheimer’s takes place in the home via the loving attention of a spouse, family members and/or friends.

However, caregiving is an all-consuming job, and the needs of the patient will quickly deplete the energy levels and well-being of the care providers if they don’t take care of themselves.

Respite care is a must-have resource for anyone who is an immediate caregiver for a spouse or loved one with Alzheimer’s. This service is available via home care aides, adult daycare centers or memory care centers offering drop-in or short-term residential options.

Make respite care a priority from the beginning so you can take care of yourself, observe routine appointments and enjoy well-deserved breaks and traditional family vacations.

Memory Care Centers

It used to be that assisted living or nursing home options were the only resources available when the level of care required moved beyond what was possible at home.

Over the course of the past decade, however, research has shown that dedicated memory care centers – assisted living options wholly tailored to improving outcomes for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia – provide greater quality of life and improved outcomes for both patients and their families.

Furthermore, we’ve learned that transitioning into memory care communities sooner, rather than later, is beneficial for all because it decreases the high-level of stress and the lack of autonomy for the patient that transpires when families wait until they are in crisis.

By moving during the later-beginning or mid-stages of Alzheimer’s, the patient can settle in, learn their way around and create their own sense of community before the disease progresses.

Most memory care centers offer in-house doctors and nurses, licensed staff, pharmacies and innovative resources that minimize the need for off-site appointments that become agitating for residents as their condition progresses.

High-quality memory care centers adhere to Dementia Care Practices and provide ample “normal life” routines via amenities like the town center concept, which markedly improve the residents’ quality of life.

Read, Questions to Ask When Visiting Memory Care Communities, to learn more about what you should be looking for when choosing the right memory care for your loved one.

Alzheimer’s Care And Support in Richmond

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis requires quick action to enable you the time to research and learn about the available care and support options for your loved one.

You’ll soon find that such a progressive disease can be faced head-on, with dignity, given the right resources and support.

Learn more about memory care in Richmond

 

Atlanta Resource Guide For Alzheimer’s Care And Support

An Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis is life changing, and it is also a call-to-action.

The sooner you can breathe through the initial shock and adjustment period, the better able you’ll be to create a long-term care plan that involves the input, opinions, and preferences of your loved one.

Quick action also optimizes the time available to research and learn more about the Alzheimer’s journey before it progresses to mid- or later-stages.

This gives you a more spacious ability to explore local options for the following:

  • Adult day care
  • Home care
  • Memory care

It also enables you to thoughtfully develop and assemble a financial plan that supports your loved one’s long-term care goals.

Top Online Resources to Learn About Alzheimer’s and Alzheimer’s Care

There is only so much you can take in at a doctor’s appointment, especially in the wake of a confirmed Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

The odds are that in addition to visiting your general practitioner, you’ll be referred to a neurologist.

Hopefully, your healthcare team will provide plenty of information about Alzheimer’s via pamphlets, and allow ample time for your questions and answers. We recommend recording appointments (with the doctor’s permission), so you can listen back afterward.

There are a wide range of reputable, online resources for learning about Alzheimer’s disease, keeping up on the latest research regarding medications and/or lifestyle changes that slow its progression, as well as information about the type of long-term care that’s most successful for those with mid- to late-stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The following are the most well-respected and current websites available.

The National Institute of Aging Alzheimer’s Page

The US Department of Health and Human Services underwrites an organization called the National Institute of Health (NIH). Under this umbrella also lives the National Institute on Aging (NIA), which hosts an Alzheimer’s Disease page.

This is a solid place to start when you want to learn everything you can about Alzheimer’s, including general descriptions of the disease, information about caregiving needs and options as well as up-to-date facts about current Alzheimer’s research.

Another exciting thing about the NIA’s page is that it provides information about upcoming and existing clinical trials in which consenting adults can participate.

Additionally, there is a wealth of educational resources about diet and lifestyle changes that help to prevent Alzheimer’s, slow down its progression and to improve the outcome for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

The Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association is a leading voluntary health association dedicated to supporting Alzheimer’s research, providing information about Alzheimer’s and memory care, and connecting others with Alzheimer’s support in the Atlanta area and online.

The Alzheimer’s Association was founded more than 30 years ago when a group of families and caregivers joined together to create an organization that would unite caregivers, provide support to those facing Alzheimer’s and advance research into the disease.

Today, the AA has connected with and provided support to millions of people affected by an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and their website continues to be a premier resource for all aspects of Alzheimer’s information.

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

Similar to the Alzheimer’s Association, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) was founded by individuals who are personally affected by Alzheimer’s.

One of their most helpful resources is a national toll-free hotline, (866-232-8484), that is staffed entirely by licensed clinical social workers specializing in Alzheimer’s care, treatment and support.

Like other non-profits, the AFA funds research and does everything possible to provide caregiver support and educate the public about Alzheimer’s, including information about confidential memory screening services available in Atlanta and elsewhere. Memory screenings are funded by generous donors and grantors and have been used to screen more than four million people nationwide.

Alzheimer’s Support From Family & Friends

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis spreads ripples far beyond the lives of the patient, most powerfully impacting their spouse, immediate family and the next ring of family members and close friends.

Having conversations with these individuals early establishes your first rungs of support. Often, individuals are reticent to share this information and may want to keep it a secret out of fear, feelings of embarrassment and shame, etc.

While a short period of private adjustment is understandable, the sooner you feel comfortable having deep conversations with family and close friends, the better you’ll navigate a long-term care plan that makes sense for you and loved ones.

Read, Guide for Talking to a Loved One About Memory Care, which also outlines how to bring close friends and family into the conversation.

Learn About Memory Care Options

One of the first items of business is creating a memory care plan; again, this is one of the reasons early action is so critical.

While it’s true people with early stages of Alzheimer’s can do fine for a bit by implementing in-home caregiving support, it’s also true that caregiving becomes quickly overwhelming for spouse caregivers. Thus, it makes sense to learn all you can about the full spectrum of options to add to your Alzheimer’s support and care kit.

In almost all cases, those with Alzheimer’s fare best when they move to memory care communities earlier, rather than later, so individuals have time to feel at home and adjust to their new environment while they are still able to make decisions and be more fully present in their day-to-day lives.

Once mid- to late-stage Alzheimer’s sets in, significant transitions are highly stressful for both patient and spouse. And, sadly, in the attempt to “preserve the status-quo” for as long as possible, the resulting stress and strain of the move can exacerbate their symptoms.

Respite Care

In the beginning, while your loved one lives at home, you’ll need respite care. This invaluable service provides a break for primary caregivers.

While respite care can be brought in, or offered by a local senior center, we recommend using respite care options offered by the assisted living or memory care centers you’re currently researching. It’s an opportunity to familiarize yourself with their grounds, services, programs, and staff and ask important questions to learn more about the community.

Assisted Living Options

Until recently, those with later-stage Alzheimer’s moved into assisted living and/or nursing home facilities. These are still options, but we recommend only considering facilities offering dedicated memory care services since the needs and care required for those with Alzheimer’s are different from that of the general assisted living population.

Read, How to Compare Assisted Living Facilities, for more information.

Memory Care Centers

Dedicated Memory Care Centers are the best way to ensure patients live in supportive, stimulating and caring environments specifically designed and dedicated to those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

In addition to exemplary, round-the-clock care, high-quality memory care centers have on-site doctors, nurses, dental care, pharmacies, etc., to ease the transition for residents who are ill or require routine, managed care for existing medical conditions.

Similarly, things like Town Center models, art and music facilities, classes and other amenities provide a sense of “normal life” and make it a pleasure for spouses, friends and family members to visit.

Ultimately, memory care centers adhere to the Alzheimer Association Dementia Care Practice Recommendations, focused on tenets like person-centered care, on-site medical staff and supportive and therapeutic environments. All are proven to improve the quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Alzheimer’s Care And Support in Atlanta

Challenging conditions of an aging brain should be met with a supportive well-rounded community carefully planned for the individual.

This not only includes access to all of the necessary resources for a high quality of life today but one that can adapt to who they are tomorrow.

Learn more about memory care in Atlanta

How Dementia Affects the Younger Population

Dementia is any condition that includes degeneration of the brain tissue. It can impair neurological functions such as reasoning, memory and communication. The symptoms of dementia also include emotional characteristics such as behavior, mood and personality. Each case of dementia is unique due to the brain’s complexity, especially its condition.

Most people consider dementia to be the inflection of old age as it generally becomes more likely as we get older. However, a significant number of dementia patients are also younger. Young onset dementia (YOD) is any type of dementia that affects someone under 65 years of age.

The significance of this age is primarily social, rather than biological because it’s the traditional age of retirement. Social changes during the past few decades have largely erased this distinction, making a designation of YOD generally irrelevant to treatment.

…Read More

Alzheimer’s In-Home Care vs. Memory Care Facilities

“There’s no place like home…” is certainly true. This can feel especially poignant for those with Alzheimer’s, who are reluctant to leave a beloved spouse, pets, and the familiar comforts of home.

It’s also true that as Alzheimer’s and dementia-related conditions progress, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep a loved one well cared for, even with full-time home care in place.

Differences in Alzheimer’s In-Home Care and Memory Care Facility

There is no single answer to this question because every situation is different. However, we can shed some light on the differences between the two.

Patients with mid- to late-stage Alzheimer’s typically do best in a memory care facility. This is the case unless the family has taken great strides to provide a long-term care plan, to include 24/7 coverage of the following:

  • Regular in-home care
  • Skilled home health care
  • Specific nutrition guidelines
  • Ideal memory care-themed activities

Because most families are unable to accommodate that level of care, many Alzheimer’s patients end up in-home care settings that unknowingly hinder, rather than promote, their well-being.

Eventually, they’re transitioned into a memory care facility in crisis, creating a more traumatic experience for everyone involved.

Care Models for Alzheimer’s In-Home Care and Memory Care Facilities

Consider the different levels of care offered in Alzheimer’s in-home care and memory care facilities.

You can be best informed on these differences if you have a clear understanding of the following:

  • Fact-based understandings of Alzheimer’s disease and how it progresses.
  • A realistic awareness of the quantity and quality of care required, which exponentially increases over time.
  • An assessment of current health conditions (if any) and those likely to develop with age, personal/family medical history, and/or in response to dementia-related side effects.
  • The big financial picture
  • Awareness that home-based care plans require some form of respite care from caregivers who are trained in memory care.
  • Transitions significantly diminish the well-being of those with mid- to later stages of Alzheimer’s, including big moves and even the ins-and-outs of getting to/from various medical appointments, etc.

In almost all cases, the ideal memory care model is one that provides the required level of support and care in the home, if desired, during the early stages of the disease.

Transitions from Alzheimer’s in-home care to memory care facility should take place while your loved one has some level of authority regarding decisions and timelines.

Considerations When Researching Alzheimer’s In-Home Care and Memory Care Facilities  

Just this year, the Alzheimer’s Association posted an incredible document titled, Alzheimer’s Association Dementia Care Practice Recommendations, published as a supplemental issue of The Gerontologist.

This includes some of the most up-to-date research findings, which support the following comparisons and recommendations about Alzheimer’s in-home care and memory care facilities, and at what point a transition is best.

When considering your options of Alzheimer’s in-home care and memory care facilities, it’s important to have a solid understanding of several factors, including:

  • Importance of pre-planning care decisions
  • Challenges posed by different care options
  • Activity and social-based needs of your loved one
  • Medical support needs of your loved one
  • Difficulty in waiting to transition from home care to memory facility

at home alzheimer's care atlantaEarly decisions about long-term memory care are ideal

After the shock of the Alzheimer’s diagnosis wears off, it’s no time to pretend “business as usual.” It’s time to rally the troops, ensuring everyone understands what this diagnosis means in a relevant timeline specific to the age/medical condition of your loved one.  

The earlier the diagnosis the better because an early diagnosis allows the individual to have more autonomy and empowerment in expressing ideas, opinions, and desires.

A family meeting about Alzheimer’s care should address:

  • The collective feelings, fears, anger, grief, etc. about the situation.
  • Appreciation for the reality that we’re better informed and better equipped than ever to provide healthy, active and as-independent-as-possible lifestyles for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
  • The importance of being proactive about researching all long-term care options.
  • Dementia is a progressive disease, almost without exception; some changes happen unpredictably and seemingly overnight, so preparation is everything.
  • Prospective timelines for the transition from Alzheimer’s in-home care to memory care facility.
  • Researching respite care options, knowing respite caregivers need to be well-versed in memory care in the more challenging stages, times of day, etc.

Feeling nervous about the conversation? Read, our Guide for Talking For Talking to a Loved One About Memory Care.

Understand the Challenges Around the Perks of Home Care

While home care does have it’s perks, particularly around the initial diagnosis phase, there are serious challenges when it comes to providing exceptional memory care for your loved one as well as providing the medical care s/he requires now and in the future.

All this must be done while simultaneously creating a “new reality” around the following:

  • Social interactions
  • Relationship adjustments
  • Providing well-rounded activity opportunities
  • Taking time for thoughtful outings that are not too taxing
  • Nighttime/full-time care requirements

It is critical to consider the challenges inherent in a long-term Alzheimer’s in-home care plan.

Consider the social and activity-based needs

If your loved one lives alone, there is almost no circumstance where home care trumps memory care.

The research is very clear that personalized, social engagements are not only good for those with Alzheimer’s, they actually slow down the disease’s progression.

The social sphere of someone with dementia shrinks considerably as the disease progresses; if that person lives alone, interactions with a handful of rotating caregivers, is simply not enough.

Even an individual who lives with a spouse or family members nearby cannot derive the same level of social interactions – let alone art classes, music exposure, gardening, etc. that takes place via direction or facilitation of a memory care expert.

Available on-site medical support

Any medical change, emergency, illness, medication reaction etc. requires transport from home to the doctor, hospital, urgent care, etc., and these disruptions to the norm are very disturbing to the Alzheimer’s patient.

The more memory and medical care are provided via long-term continuums, the better the overall outcome is for Alzheimer’s patients.

High-quality memory care facilities have nurses on-site, available around the clock, and the large majority of residents’ medical conditions and pharmacy needs are managed onsite. This enables a more relaxing, consistent routine for residents, all provided by familiar faces.

Inevitable transitions become increasingly difficult over time

If you decide to care for a loved one at home until you can no longer manage, you’re in a precarious position.

Waiting until later-stage Alzheimer’s has set in puts you and your loved one at risk for the following scenarios:

  • The inevitable transition from your home into memory care may be extremely difficult for the one with Alzheimer’s and much more traumatic for you.
  • You may put yourself and key family members at risk for burnout, continually avoiding the transition until your/their health and well-being are compromised.
  • Your loved one’s Alzheimer’s may, ironically, become “worse” or more progressed by not having skilled memory care in place earlier on.

Read, When to Move to a Memory Care Facility, and learn about the signs indicating when moving to a memory care facility is the right move.

Research Memory Care Facilities Now

It’s never too early to explore memory care facility options. In fact, touring them early is not only helpful for narrowing down prospects, it’s a tremendous resource during your overall adjustment phase.

Through these tours and interviews with memory care experts you and loved ones have access to expert information, education, recommendations, etc., to help you acclimate to your new situation.

Instead of thinking of memory care facility tours as a, “we always said we’d never…” scenario, think of them as an empowering way to learn all you can about memory care and your options without any obligation.

This checklist, Questions to Ask When Visiting Memory Care Communities, provides a helpful framework for your conversations with memory care administrators and staff.

Contact The Memory Center to learn more about your options.

How To Know It’s Time For Memory Care

When something acute happens, like a traumatic car accident or terminal illness diagnosis, the natural reaction is to jump into action making plans.

On the other hand, age-related cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia don’t always cause such immediate impact. Rather, signs and symptoms unfold over a period of time, making it difficult to know when memory care is truly needed.

There are also the psychological and emotional impacts of dementia-related conditions on a person’s spouse, loved ones and family. Denial, emotionally driven conversations and the thought that caregiving can’t be that difficult, all add to the challenge of making mindful, long-term care plans.

5 Signs A Loved One Needs Memory Care

Multiple studies show moving those with Alzheimer’s or dementia into memory care communities sooner, rather than later, results in better outcomes for patients–mentally, physically and emotionally.

The following are five clear signs it’s the right time for memory care.

1. Alzheimer’s, dementia or another dementia-related condition diagnosis

Everyone is forgetful at times, and this forgetfulness increases with age.

However, routine forgetting of important dates, names, how to get to familiar places, to pay bills, etc. is not normal. These are often the first signs of dementia and should trigger an appointment with your physician.

Once a diagnosis is given, it’s time to begin having conversations about memory care.  

The desire to live at home for as long as possible is understandable and encouraged in the beginning stages so long as there are no serious safety issues at risk.

At the same time, this is your best opportunity to begin visiting, touring and exploring reputable, licensed memory care facilities in your area. This process results in a wealth of information and resources.

As mentioned above, studies show that it’s better to transition individuals from home into memory care before more dangerous signs and symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s surface.

Transitioning earlier allows your loved one to have a say in his/her future which is extremely important.  It also enables necessary adjustment time, so they’re in familiar surroundings, forming relationships and connections with staff, employees and other residents when they progress to later stages of dementia.

2. Caregiver stress

Caregiving for a loved one with memory care is a 24/7 occupation.

Without engaging in regular respite care, it becomes impossible to sustain the situation. Even with qualified, in-home care providers, those with mid to later stages of memory loss require increasing levels of medical assistance, and the enormity of unceasing tasks is more than almost any household can accommodate.

If you’re approaching, or have already reached, a point where caregiving is all-consuming, it’s time to consider memory care.

Similarly, if you find yourself a member of the “Sandwich Generation”, stuck between an aging parent requiring care, a job and the needs of your own family, memory care is a must or else you’ll quickly go from being a caregiver to needing a caregiver of your own.

care for parents with alzheimers3. A decline in overall health

As memory loss sets in, so do the abilities to drive a car, make grocery lists, prepare food, remember daily medications, or even remember to eat.

Losing track of days and times has a disastrous effect on the circadian rhythm, contributing to Sundowner’s syndrome, insomnia and other sleep disorders that take on toll on one’s health and well-being.

Physical signs include:

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Lack of food in the fridge or cabinets
  • Evidence of medication not taken (or overtaken)
  • Neglected personal hygiene
  • Hunched or sunken posture
  • Inexplicable bruises, breaks and/or injuries
  • Unpaid bills and missed appointments

The inability to remember how to get home or where one is going puts patients at risk for injury, getting lost or becoming victims of scams and potentially violent crimes.

Similarly, those with dementia are more prone to being injured at home and are less able to remember how to seek help, forgetting to press a “life alert’ button or how to use the phone to call 911.

If you find yourself worrying about a loved ones’ well-being on a regular basis, the transition to memory care brings peace of mind while simultaneously ensuring s/he is supported, attended to and cared for day-in and day-out.

4. Little to no social life

The social life of someone with dementia shrinks considerably, exacerbating and even accelerating the condition.

In addition to on-site medical care and low caregiver-to-resident ratios, memory care facility residents have rich and vibrant social lives. Daily activities, supervised excursions, and creative outlets are a foundation upon which these center were developed, and the positive benefits of those outlets are evidenced.

Read about our Philosophy to learn more about the research and wisdom behind memory care centers, and to learn about our own Town Center design, which helps residents feel connected to neighborhood-based lifestyles.

5. Your instincts are telling you something

Inevitably, your gut instincts never lie.

If you deeply suspect it’s time to move a loved one into memory care, it’s undoubtedly true. Honor that feeling with a consultation at memory care centers near you, and your wise intuition will lead you to the best path forward.

Be Proactive, Learn More About Memory Care Before Your Loved One Needs It

Spouses and family members often find themselves at a loss once a tipping point is reached when, quite often, accidental injuries, malnutrition and diminished quality of life force everyone’s hand.

Don’t wait until your loved one is getting worse, or you and your family members are mentally and physically exhausted. Understand the signs and symptoms of cognitive decline. Be aware of your loved one’s health and well-being. Start your research on memory care now, before they need it.

You may also be interested in these related memory care posts:

 

 

LATEST NEWS


19
Mar

The Memory Center Response To Covid-19

The Memory Center COVID-19 Prevention Efforts – Updated March 19, 2020 Since the virus was first reported, The Memory Center has been very proactive in monitoring the situation via news...

READ MORE

20
Sep

What To Do When You Get An Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Getting an official diagnosis that memory lapses are the result of Alzheimer’s or dementia is life-altering. If you or your loved one still function “normally” in day-to-day life, it can...

READ MORE

27
Jun

Keeping Your Loved One With Dementia At Home: Is It The Best Option?

Deciding when to move a loved one from home-based care to a memory care center is a difficult topic. In most cases, spouses and families opt to wait until their...

READ MORE

GET MEMORY CARE NEWS & TIPS


Sign up for e-mail updates, news and tips from The Memory Center.

News & Tips
Sending

GET IN TOUCH


We want to hear from you. Feel free to ask a question or request more information about The Memory Center and our communities.

The Memory Center - Atlanta
The Memory Center - Virginia Beach
The Memory Center - Richmond

Top