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Alzheimer's and Dementia Care

Image of a male senior citizen.Dementia is a characterized by a progressive decline in a person's functional abilities, including the ability to remember, think, and reason. A person who has dementia may also exhibit changes in personality, behavior and mood. Alzheimer's disease is a progressive disease of the brain that is one type of dementia. Presently there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease. Nursing homes can provide care for persons affected by dementia.

Some nursing homes have special units for residents with Alzheimer's disease or another dementia. If your loved one has Alzheimer's disease or is suffering from dementia, consider a nursing home that has a special care unit for those with dementia.

Family Support Groups

Some nursing homes have support groups for families. Joining a group with others who share your concerns may help you to learn ways to cope with how Alzheimer's/dementia is affecting you, your family and your loved one.

If the nursing home in which your loved one lives does not have a support group, you may wish to request that the social worker start one or help you to start one. If this is not possible, the social worker may be able to help you find a support group in your area, such as those offered through the Greater Maryland Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

Questions to Ask

When evaluating different special care units, ask the following questions:

  • Does the unit have trained, supportive staff that knows how to adjust to the resident, rather than having the resident adjust to the staff?
  • Does the staff use information about each resident to individualize care and to prevent and eliminate behavioral symptoms?
  • Are special activities provided to help reduce anxiety and agitation?
  • Does the unit have a homelike environment? The unit should have pleasing sights, sounds and smells, like those found at home.
  • Does the unit have a low noise level, non-glare lighting and comfortable furniture?
  • Does the unit have security measures in place to discourage and prevent wandering?

Testimony

For four years Eleanor Taylor took care of her mom, Dorothy Henderson, at home. As Mrs. Henderson's Alzheimer's disease progressed, her need for care and supervision increased. Eleanor quit her job so she could provide the 24-hour care her mother needed. Occasionally Mrs. Henderson would strike out at Eleanor and Eleanor's teenage daughter when they tried to bathe her. As she became more confused, Mrs. Henderson began leaving the house and wandering through the neighborhood at night. It became clear to Eleanor that, despite all the family's best efforts, her mother was no longer safe at home. Reluctantly, she placed her mother in a nursing home.

When Eleanor visits the nursing home she feels very comfortable with her decision. She was able to find a nursing home for her mother with a special dementia-care unit. It has an enclosed garden area where Mrs. Henderson can walk outside safely. Staff provides the personal care and attention her mother needs. Mrs. Henderson attends activities during the day and she is finally sleeping through the night again. (And so is Eleanor.)