Many adult children experience guilt when they start considering assisted living placement for their parents. They may feel they are giving up on, or even abandoning, Mom or Dad. Full-time care isn't easy to provide in the home. It requires a great deal of time, patience and attention; for a working adult, especially, providing the highest level of care can be difficult. When a parent is suffering from Alzheimer's or another dementia-like condition, a residential community that offers ongoing memory care is often the best course for addressing his or her long-term needs.
If you're considering assisted living for your parent, you're hardly alone. Nearly every Alzheimer's patient will, at some point, require more care than can be safely provided at home. So, how do you know when it's the right time to think about transitioning a parent into assisted living? Let's talk about some of the early indicators.
1. You're distracted, fatigued, or unable to care for yourself.
Caregiver fatigue, or "burnout," is a real problem. It's a state of exhaustion—mental, physical, emotional and even spiritual—that can negatively affect both the health of the caregiver and the quality of care given to an aging parent.
Burnout has been linked to depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol addiction, sleep disturbances, reduced immunity to illness, self-harm and even heart conditions in caregivers. If your health is suffering or you are otherwise unable to function as normal, it's definitely time to consider assisted living.
2. Your loved one is beginning to wander.
Many seniors with Alzheimer's will start to wander as their disease progresses. When caring for a parent with mid-to-late stage dementia, turning your back for a few moments can become a dangerous situation —a parent might become lost or could fall and be seriously injured. If your parent is wandering, memory care may be your safest option.
3. Mom or Dad is beginning to exhibit "sundowner syndrome."
Sundowner syndrome is the name given to agitated behaviors and/or increased memory difficulties that tend to occur late in the day, or when a senior with dementia has had a lot of activity throughout the day. The triggers aren't completely understood, but could include overstimulation, lower end-of-day or winter light levels, tiredness, low neurotransmitter levels in the brain or even daily hormonal cycles.
A parent who is suffering from moderate sundowner symptoms can become increasingly hard to care for, resulting in more caregiver burnout, a greater tendency to wander and an increased risk of self-injury.
4. Your parent is becoming aggressive.
As Alzheimer's and other cognitive disorders progress, they can cause a sufferer to become verbally or even physically aggressive toward their loved ones and caregivers. Besides the risk of injury, being the target of repeated aggression can make a caregiver resentful of his or her aging parent—even if it's clear that the parent cannot help it.
5. Your home presents safety issues.
Certain home features can put an elderly adult at substantial risk of falling. Examples of safety hazards include:
- Steep stairs
- Slippery hardwood floors
- Linoleum floors
- Furniture cluttering any open spaces
- Lack of handrails in hallways and bathrooms
If you can't afford to remodel, or if you have small grandchildren or pets in the home, an assisted living residence might be a safer option for your aging parent.
6. Your parent's care needs are beyond your physical capabilities.
Many Alzheimer's sufferers lose their mobility over time. If Mom or Dad needs lifting assistance that you can't provide, or a lot of help with bathing, dressing, feeding, or daily tasks, a fully-staffed assisted living community is the best option.
Long-term memory care can provide your parent help that fits your needs and means.
If caring for Mom or Dad is becoming too much for you to handle at home, you shouldn't feel guilty for seeking placement. Admitting you need help is both realistic and compassionate—it shows that you really want what's best for your senior loved one.