How Do We Know When Its Time?
Part One of Three ~ The Lighthouse Keeper
Everything changes when we are touched by dementia. It’s hard to know what signs to look for, and one of the most common questions we hear is “how do we know it’s time?” There isn’t a road map on this journey, only knowledge we gain from walking with families who have been in your shoes. If someone else’s pain can teach us something, it means it wasn’t for nothing. Here are a few things you might keep an eye on…for your loved one, and yourself.
You worry about your loved one’s safety - Regardless if your loved one lives alone, with you, or in a congregate living setting, if you are constantly worried about his or her safety then it may be time to consider and explore memory care. Memory care communities are designed to meet the specialized needs of people living with dementia because they have specially trained caregivers. The purpose of the memory care setting is to walk alongside the residents as they navigate their day; anticipating needs and reducing stress and anxiety. They have a high staff concentration, whereas you are doing the job of dozens of people who all take turns and take shifts. Housekeepers, chefs, servers, caregivers, etc.…perspective is important. Also, if you are in a constant state of worry, it is because you know that something isn’t right. It isn’t going to be an easy process, but it is one you need to give yourself permission to go through.
You worry about your own safety - As dementia progresses, some people experience significant personality changes and can develop confusion and agitation that leads to outbursts, violence or threats of violence.
Many times, this agitation and out of character reactions can be attributed to two things: Approach and Environment. There are certain types of dementia that these reactions become more common with. Either way, these are not healthy in a home environment, and they can create problems that will just exacerbate the trauma that you are already experiencing.
That being said, this doesn’t mean that anyone is doing anything wrong. The cruel reality is that the person we have known for possibly our whole lifetime is, all of a sudden, a completely different person, and we are asking them to exist in a world that no longer makes sense to them.
There are things that can be done to adapt a home and adapt the way we do things, absolutely. But we must be mindful of the idea that we are expecting ourselves to not only manage ourselves, but to be someone else’s brain for them. That might be fine temporarily, but it is most definitely not sustainable.
If your loved one is experiencing increased agitation, and you are becoming concerned about your own safety or the safety of others in your home, it may be time to explore the idea of your loved one moving to memory care. It is not uncommon for a family to wait too long to make this impossible decision, which can lead to a catastrophic event. The domino effect that can occur in this case can not only be extremely traumatic for you and your loved one, it can create barriers to being able to move into the setting of your choice.
You are exhausted - Caregiver burnout is very real, and caring for someone with dementia is emotionally and physically exhausting. Many caregivers let their own health suffer while they are taking care of a loved one, and caregiving alone is not a sustainable situation. Memory care communities are partners in caregiving and can give you rest while still involving you in important care decisions.
We are here to support, to answer questions, and to help however we can.
The Lighthouse Keeper