It doesn’t take a lot to foresee that your parents might end up needing dementia care — maybe even Alzheimer’s care — in their old age. My maternal grandparents both had dementia, and my mother is slipping in that direction herself. So when I look forward to my mother’s twilight years, what do I see?
One thing is certain: I’m going to get her an in-home caregiver. The reason is simple: I know what a nursing home does to people. I used to sell health insurance to the elderly, and my mother-in-law is a nurse who used to assist the elderly. I know first hand just how awful a nursing home can be, especially for someone who needs Alzheimer’s care.
I suppose I could try to care for her myself, but I’ve also seen what that can do to a family. More than once, I’ve seen a family torn apart from the stress of dealing with someone whom you desperately want to care for that wants nothing to do with you. I don’t want to end up resenting my mother for being alive, or in one of the many ‘people who take care of Alzheimer’s victims’ support groups.
On the third hand, an in-home caregiver that provides dementia care and/or Alzheimer’s care (the two are slightly different) is worth his or her weight in gold. After all, dementia and Alzheimer’s sufferers require an extraordinary amount of special attention to deal with. For example, providing an extraordinarily stable environment and a very regular pattern of daily behavior does a lot to keep them comfortable and relaxed.
What I’m Going to Look For
When the time comes for me to choose an in-home caregiver (or agency of them) for my mother, there are three things that I’m going to make sure of before I sign any paperwork or any money changes hands.
#1: Is every nurse going to be certified to provide dementia/Alzheimer’s care? I don’t want some group with one expert caregiver and a bunch of scrubs taking care of my mom. I want a group where everyone is competent.
#2: Does the agency provide an individualized approach to each patient? I’ve seen a few groups that have a strictly ‘one-size-fits-all’ to Alzheimer’s/dementia care. That’s not good with me; I’m going to find a company that will bend to meet my mother’s real needs.
#3: Is the long-term contract the only option at signup? Lots of agencies insist you sign up for 2+ years right away. Not only does that not give me leave to switch agencies if they turn out to be crappy, but what if your situation changes and I need to move my family (mother included) across the country? I’m not going to pay extra because I got a new job.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the best Alzheimer’s care and dementia care can be had with an in-home caregiver — it’s just choosing the right one that’s the challenge.