Making the decision to transition a loved one with dementia into aged care can be difficult, but it is necessary to ensure they receive the best possible care.
Here are some tips on making the process as smooth as possible for all involved.
1. Understand the stages of dementia
Dementia gets worse over time. There are many types of dementia, and while each type may progress differently, all of them affect your mood, judgement or cognition to some extent. Some other symptoms appear, like changes in emotions, perception, and behaviour.
While clinicians follow specific guidelines to rate the severity of the condition based on cognitive and functional decline, there really is no clear definition as to when a person with dementia moves from one stage to the next.
An essential thing for family members to understand is that dementia doesn’t just alter brain function– it also influences how a person experiences life. And just like any other experience, the person’s relationships with the people around them affects them significantly.
The family and carers of people with dementia should understand the impact that it has on their loved one. This includes knowing how they think and feel, as these will affect what they do next or say in a given situation.
Remember that your loved one experiences life differently. You must provide genuine care and assistance regardless of the stage of dementia they’re in.
2. Find a facility that meets your loved one’s needs and budget
When you’re choosing a home or nursing care centre, take some time and think about what will make them feel safest— both inside their space as well as with those around them.
It’s essential that you know what will make your loved one comfortable and safe and that all their needs are met and supported. After all, the facility will be their new home.
Depending on the severity of their condition, you can choose from various residential care options such as group homes, nursing homes, respite care, continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), or assisted living facilities. You can also opt for home care support where the elderly person can remain in their own home, but with the addition of drop-in support services.
If choosing a residential aged care facility, make sure to consider the location of the facility and visitation arrangements. The home must be equipped with safety and assistive technology to make moving around safe and accessible.
The activities, food, and overall feel of the care facility must also match with you and your loved one’s preferences.
We recommend that you gather as much information as you can from at least five housing facilities in your preferred area. Choose the ones accredited by the Australian Government and have a good reputation. You may need to ask for recommendations from friends and other trusted sources.
Remember that finding an appropriate facility is critical. Your decision must feel right for you and your loved one’s situation.
3. Prepare yourself for the challenges ahead
Change is challenging for people with dementia. Expect resistance, which is possibly the biggest challenge you’ll face during the process.
The key here is to plan ahead to make the experience as smooth as possible.
Let them know early on why you’re planning the move, and help them understand this decision. Involve them by considering their preferred living arrangements or visitation schedule. Make them feel that their opinions and personal choices matter and are part of this decision.
Ask other family members to explain the move. If the entire family is on board, the patient will feel supported.
Once in the facility, your loved one might feel uncomfortable being in an unfamiliar setting and might say that they ‘want to go home’. This reaction is normal and should be dealt with calmly.
Reassure them that they are safe and that they are in a new home. Ensure that they are cared for, so they’ll eventually feel at home.
4. Encourage their hobbies and interests
Before the move, let them know that they will still be able to do their favourite activities in their new home.
The chosen aged care facility must be able to support their interests and hobbies from before they developed dementia. This preserves their identity and self-worth as the disease progresses.
When a patient enjoys an activity, it provides them with a feeling of normalcy in what can feel like an increasingly confusing world. It also stimulates their mind and body and encourages independence.
Make sure that they are calm when doing these activities, as it will help condition their minds and bodies better. Doing specific activities at certain times of the day can also make the transition easier when they move to the aged care home.
5. Ensure there is a plan for end-of-life care if needed
There’s no clear timeline as to how fast or slow dementia will progress, but the family must communicate an end-of-life plan to the patient and the chosen facility.
This stage can be emotionally and physically demanding for the family and the carer. Challenging decisions must be made while ensuring that they are comfortable and happy on their final days.
With the right help and preparation, you can transition your loved one with dementia into aged care. It’s not an easy process but worth it for them to live their best life possible.