Important Steps to Take When Caring for a Senior with Dementia or Alzheimer's - A Family Recipe
Updated: Sep 17
Dementia family recipe for when the parent becomes the child.
Advice for Dementia Care | Tips for Caring for Seniors with Alzheimer's
As our loved ones age, we may find ourselves in the position of taking care of them like we would our children, when we're still raising our children. Dealing with early onset and advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s in seniors can be stressful and taxing. Having gone through it with my father, I would like to share my family's recipe for dementia and Alzheimer's care.
Obtain a Diagnosis: Learn the difference between dementia and Alzheimer's.
Learn about Dementia: Know the different types of dementia, its symptoms, and progression. Understanding the condition will help you better comprehend your loved one’s behaviors and provide appropriate care.
Medical Power of Attorney: Obtain a Medical Power of Attorney that stipulates your loved one’s medical preferences, advanced healthcare directives, and your permission to speak to their doctors to make appointments or obtain results.
List of Medicines: Obtain a complete list of medicines along with the names and contact info of your loved one’s doctors and pharmacy. You should have an explanation of the medicine’s benefits, side effects, and dosage.
Diet: Seniors on medication may need to watch the consumption of certain foods, spices, or drinks. Things like sodium, alcohol, fluids, and glucose/sugar can negatively impact their health or interact with their medication.
Medical Equipment: You may need proper medical equipment to check your loved one's blood pressure, oxygen levels, glucose/sugar levels (diabetes), etc. CGM sensors/monitors and readers, such as FreeStyle Libre, are very helpful for checking sugar levels. They adhere to the body for a limited period of time, so you can avoid pricking fingers. These types of monitors record readings and come with applications that you can log into to interpret your loved one's glucose readings on your smartphone.
Other Equipment: At home, you may require a walker, a wheelchair, a stabilizer that can be used in or out of the shower, a step stool into bed, diapers and pads, and other helpful equipment. I highly recommend the Nitro Duet, which can be used as a walker, then flipped and used as a wheelchair.
General Power of Attorney: Obtain a General Power of Attorney so you can speak to ANYONE about your loved one’s accounts and services. You can print this document online and have it notarized.
Long-term Care Policy: Obtain a copy of your loved one’s Long-term Care policy information if they have it.
Last Will and Testament: Obtain a copy of your loved one's Last Will and Testament and Trust. Consult an attorney specializing in elder law to ensure that your loved one’s legal and financial documents are in order.
Important Documents: Know where the important papers are, such as your loved one’s will, trust, passport, title on the car and house, pre-paid funeral plans, etc.
Lock the Social Security Number: Secure your loved one’s social security number with some or all of the credit bureaus and/or a reputable credit monitoring service such as LifeLock. This service is also often offered by their credit card company.
Financial Accounts: With permission, add your name to your loved one’s financial account/s. Sign up to receive notices by text or email from their banks or credit unions when their credit cards or ATM cards are used.
Two-Step Verifications: Establish 2-Step Verifications for banking, financial accounts, and social media so verifications will be sent to you by text or email for all accounts.
Bills: Make a list of monthly bills, including when they are due. Set up "Bill Pay" online at one of their banks so you can monitor and pay your loved one's bills all at once.
Passwords: Obtain the passwords for your loved one’s email so you can monitor their accounts. As your loved one’s dementia or Alzheimer's progresses, don't let them email at all. The scammers are very sophisticated.
Beware of Other Scams: Watch out for phone or text scams, including catfishing for relationships, utility shut-off scams, donation scams, etc. Many individuals and companies ask for donations and aren’t registered as nonprofits for tax write-offs.
Consult an Attorney: Consult a tax accountant or attorney and consider adding your and your sibling's names to your loved one’s property. There may be tax benefits in doing so now, especially if you plan to rent their home.
Secure Valuables: Put your loved one’s jewelry and valuables in a safe, in a secure area of the home, or in a safe deposit box.
Remove Weapons: Remove all weapons from your loved one’s home: pistols, shotguns, rifles, tasers, and hunting knives.
Home Monitoring Systems: Install a monitoring system in your loved one’s home that connects to an app on your smartphone. This way, you can monitor who rings the doorbell, who is coming and going from their house, when people are visiting, and how your loved one is being treated. You can also talk to first responders. And, you can randomly check on your loved one in their home. Eufy or Ring cameras are easy to install. You may have to upgrade or install Wi-Fi service to accommodate the number of cameras you want to install.
Keep an Eye Out: If you take your loved one out to eat or treat them to an event, escort them to the bathroom (and anywhere else) and wait for them. They may forget where they are or who they are with by the time they come out.
Post Reminders: Write and post large notes to inform your loved ones about where you are or what to do. Place the notes on the door, over the meds, on the refrigerator, covering plates, etc. “Don’t leave! I’m at the gym.” “Take these meds before you eat.” “Dinner is in the orange container.”
Daily Routines: Establish a daily routine to provide structure and familiarity. Consistency can help you remember what is supposed to happen and can reduce confusion and agitation for your loved one. They may have to be reminded to brush their teeth, freshen up, shower, wear clean clothes, etc.
Keep Them Active: Help your loved one participate in physical activities that keep their muscles strong and activities that promote cognitive stimulation, such as puzzles, games, and reminiscing.
Seek Help in the Community: Consider enrolling them in community activities, classes of interest, and senior programs, such as Silver Sneakers or Adult Day Care, specifically designed for individuals with memory issues. This is also a great way for them to socialize and meet new friends.
Involve Family & Friends: Reach out to family members, close friends, and other relatives who can assist with their care on a consistent schedule. Arrange visits with friends and family members, including children.
Caregivers: Consider hiring caregivers or home health aides to provide additional support. Find care that has experience working with dementia or Alzheimer patients.
Assistance with Tasks: Know that once loved ones move in with you, they may need assistance with daily tasks they used to take for granted as the disease progresses, such as bathing, dressing, eating, and managing medication. They may accidentally place a metal spoon in the microwave, leave the oven on, leave doors unlocked, miss the toilet, forget to flush, or even urinate in a trash can or bed.
Anger and Aggression: If your loved ones have bad outbursts or become violent, you may have to ask the doctor to prescribe a sedative. Start with the lowest dose and work your way up, even if you cut pills in half. You don't want them comatose; you want them calm.
Relocating: If you are going to relocate your loved one, know that as dementia gets worse, it is difficult to move them. They need to be familiar with their surroundings, or they could lash out, become violent, or constantly try to leave. Consider an assisted living facility or memory care unit that offers multiple layers of care and know the costs of each level beforehand. Whatever the cost is today, it will be more when you are ready for advanced services. Advanced care can be very expensive if and when their condition gets worse.
Remember, Dementia and Alzheimer's are Diseases: Loved ones often can't control their actions, reactions, anger, or outbursts. Try to discover and eliminate the triggers that cause them, such as stress, noise, sundown, or a change in routine.
Take Care of Yourself: Caring for someone with dementia can be physically and emotionally demanding. You must take care of yourself by getting enough rest, practicing stress management techniques, taking breaks, delegating to family members, and asking for help when needed. Taking care of your well-being will enable you to provide better care for your parents.
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