Posted: September 28, 2020
By: Heather Waymire, Memory Care Director
The phone rings. I answer and instantly recognize the pain and confusion of a family member caring for a loved one living with dementia. As the director of a memory support neighborhood, I am often the first point of contact for a family that suddenly finds themselves facing major life changes, often brought on by a crisis. I ache for them, knowing that they are confronted with difficult decisions in a time of great stress. Unfortunately, when family members finally call for help, they are often at the end of their rope and feel like failures. They come to me loaded down with guilt, sadness and fear.
These are all very real and normal feelings related to the twists and turns of the dementia disease process, and trying to navigate the changes without help can be scary, discouraging and exhausting.
The medical industry often leaves families on their own for too long following a dementia diagnosis. After families receive the difficult news, they are sometimes sent off with no real guidance or support. The caregiver does their best to handle the situation until the inevitable crisis hits, and then reaches out in desperation. It is unfortunate and unnecessary that caregivers take on this monumental task, never realizing that help is available and that getting help in the early stages of the disease is important.
Because a breakdown in the caregiver system often the cause for a crisis, it is crucial for caregivers to be prepared and get help early in the disease process. As an example, having home care services in place can be a practical and helpful way to avoid caregiver burnout and frustration. This extra support can ease caregiver responsibility, allowing the loved one to remain at home for a longer time. Additionally, taking daily breaks from caregiving decreases stress and, in turn, improves the quality of care provided. Good “self-care” habits also bolster immunity in the household and prevent caregiver physical and emotional decline. Everyone wins.
While most people strive to keep their loved one at home for as long as possible, we know that at some point a change may be necessary. Preparing for that change early in the process can make the transition easier on all involved. Read more here about knowing when it is time for memory care.
Discuss with your loved one what their priorities are in this dementia journey. This includes talking about scenarios that might require a move to a care environment. This threshold will be different for everyone, so being as specific as possible early on will provide a clearer road map. For example, most families feel safety is a priority, but identifying specific “game changing” situations will make decisions easier when the time comes. Those situations could include wandering, violent behavior, sleeplessness, caregiver health issues or any number of other challenges that require more assistance.
At Sugar Fork Crossing, we know and understand that dementia is a family disease that affects everyone involved. Our Our Dementia Program supports residents as they find purpose and a fulfilling lifestyle. Read more about our Personalized Approach to Dementia Care that benefits everyone, including caregivers, who are navigating this difficult journey.
Heather Waymire is a Memory Support Director, theater buff and avid knitter. She is often seen at the local theater cheering on the latest production or scouting the next professional show to stop near Indiana. Heather finds time to visit the latest restaurants and is anxiously awaiting a time we will be able to savor each exotic offering. Passionate about excellent Dementia Care, Heather seeks out the most up to date care philosophy and is diligent about providing inclusive care that supports and honors Elders.