Making the Big Choice No One Wants to Make: In-Patient Care

January 6, 2011

No one wants to put their loved one in a facility, but sometimes it is unavoidable. Whatever your reasons for considering this option, they are valid.  Each caregiver has different gifts, limitations and circumstances.  Each patient with dementia has different behavioral issues.  Don’t ever let anyone guilt you into keeping your loved one at home when you are nearing the limit of what you can do.  It is an unfortunate truth that many times, the main people who are guilty of this behavior are family members who are not the primary caregiver.

I have heard so many times, “Mama said never to put her in a nursing home,” or “You will NEVER put MY father in a nursing home!” or “I should be able to do this!  My friend kept her husband at home until he passed away!”  If you are the primary caregiver, none of these statements should influence your decision.

Try to evaluate your situation objectively.  This is difficult, sometimes impossible, to do and has a lot to do with your personality type, how much stress you are under, the amount of sleep you’ve had and myriad other factors.  If you cannot separate the emotional issues from the fact-based issues, you need help.  Discuss your situation with a trusted friend, rabbi, minister or physician.  If you are so isolated that you can think of no objective person with whom to discuss this decision, the answer is clear:  You need help with your loved one, whatever form that takes.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  1. Does your loved one allow you to sleep at night?  Are you up with her at different times during the night?
  2. Does your loved one wander away from your home or do you fear he will wander away?
  3. Have you put off doing things for your own personal health — doctor’s visits, surgeries, diagnostic procedures, dental work, etc. — because of your loved one’s dementia?
  4. Is your loved one ever violent or physically hard to handle?
  5. Does your loved one need more help than you can provide in activities of daily living — eating, dressing, bathing, toileting, etc.?
  6. Does your loved one have dangerous habits at home — cooking, driving the car, smoking, lighting fires, turning on the gas, etc.?
  7. Do you feel isolated, overwhelmed, hopeless, despondent, even suicidal?

There may be other questions to ask, but these are a good start.  The more questions to which you answered “yes,” the more you need to seriously consider placing your loved one in a facility or getting some type of help at home.  Statistically, the dementia caregiver dies first.  It’s that stressful.  Don’t become a statistic.

What are your experiences and what have you learned from them?  Please share!

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