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Taking in a Family Member with Dementia
One of the most difficult challenges I’ve ever had to face is bringing my Grandpa into my home and becoming his caregiver.
When you choose to care for your loved one with dementia, you choose to take on the responsibility of ensuring their health and well-being. It’s no easy feat, and it’s not something that should be taken lightly.
There will be a definite impact on you and your family members, and you need to ensure that your home is safe for your loved one while ensuring that you utilize the support networks available to you.
Hopefully, this article can shed some light on what is involved in taking in a family member with dementia and the important things that you need to consider when doing so.
Impact On Other Family Members
Caring for a loved one with dementia is no easy task, and the truth is that some people are better at it than others. This kind of care doesn’t always come naturally, and it often requires a lot of “feeling” as opposed to a lot of “doing.”
Sometimes you have to choose your battles and knowing which ones you can win and which ones you’ll lose can go a long way in keeping your loved one comfortable and your relationship intact.
An example is me letting my Grandpa eat his dessert before his main. It makes no sense and seems silly, but he likes sweet food, and it’s either this order or he doesn’t eat at all.
Caregiver stress is a real thing, especially when your loved one is in the moderate or severe stages of dementia. There’s a lot of grief that you’ll carry around, and if you’re anything like me, a lot of guilt too.
It’s vital that you don’t forget about you and your own health, so try and do the following:
- Schedule regular “me-time” by choosing to do something you enjoy alone and for yourself. There is a lot of peace that comes with doing something that you’re passionate about regularly.
- Take regular breaks. Caregiving is overwhelming and can lead to caregiver burnout. Try and set up a schedule with your family and take turns in looking after your loved one. Perhaps you even have a friend who might be willing to assist. Either way, taking regular breaks is essential for your health and well-being.
- Have a support system. It’s impossible to do everything on your own, and I can guarantee that you’ll reach burnout if you try to. Set up a support network of family, friends, professionals, and other outside sources to help buffer yourself against the strain that caregiving puts on you.
Oftentimes, children are left out of the loop because we don’t want to upset them, but I’ve found that this creates more issues in the family and isn’t entirely fair on the children either.
Children are very intuitive, and though they might not understand what is wrong, they will be able to tell when something is wrong.
I can remember my nephew becoming extremely emotional whenever we had a family gathering, and though even he couldn’t tell us exactly what was upsetting, we realized that it was my Grandpa’s changing behavior that was the cause.
Try and explain dementia to your child the best way you can. Let them know that it’s important to keep loving your loved one and engage them in the caregiving process if they’re old enough. Something as simple as them reading together with your loved one or performing a coloring activity can go a long way.
If you’re unsure where to start, you can get some great tips from this video. You can even watch it together with your children.
Hazards In The Home
There are plenty of home hazards that you need to consider when taking in a family member with dementia.
Your loved one’s safety is your top priority, so you need to ensure that your environment is as accident-proof as possible.
People with dementia begin to lose their mobility as their condition progresses, which makes them far more likely to fall and get lost in your home. By making some simple changes to your home, you can help your loved one be both comfortable and safe:
- Assess which parts of your home are the most likely to present problems. Stairways are always a challenge with tools and chemical supplies coming in at a close second. Make sure your stairs are carpeted and that you have a secure banister attached to them. You should also ensure that all dangerous items like tools and cleaning supplies are locked away.
- Always have emergency numbers on hand. As much as you can try and avoid accidents, they may still happen, so you and the rest of your family should know who to contact in the case of an emergency.
- Be careful in the kitchen. It’s very easy for your loved one to turn on the stove or oven when you’re not around. Some options that you can implement include installing appliances that shut off automatically, installing a concealed gas valve, and taking off the switch knobs.
You can have a look at this article if you’d like more information on the types of appliances and options available to you.
- Be careful in the bathroom. Any of us can slip and fall in the bathroom, but the odds of it happening to your loved one with dementia is much higher. If you have the budget for it, a walk-in tub or shower could be ideal. Otherwise, installing grab bars inside the shower, tub, and adjacent to the toilet is a great way to prevent accidents from occurring.
You can have a look at this article if you’d like more information on the types of products and options available to you.
- Keep the lights on. With deteriorating vision and mental faculties, your loved one is going to struggle with navigating their way through your house. Bright lighting in entryways, doorways, hallways, staircases, and bathrooms are all good ways of preventing an accident.
You can have a look at this article if you’d like more information on the types of lights and options available to you.
I am so thankful for the support networks that I have, and I honestly don’t know what I’d do without them.
Sometimes things just become too much for me, and I need to take a break from my Grandpa.
That doesn’t make me a bad person – just as it doesn’t make him a bad person – but it makes me human, and sometimes I need to use my support system to prioritize my own health and well-being.
Regular family meetings are a great way to keep in touch with your family and ensure that you are all on the same page regarding your loved one with dementia.
Talk about how caregiving is affecting you and your family members and come up with solutions together to help alleviate as much stress and difficulty as possible.
You can even make a family roster so that the responsibility is spread equally, and no single person is the one who is doing all the caregiving.
Spending Time With Your Household
Caring for a loved one with dementia, especially if they’re living in your home, can become the sole focus and attention for the family living in that household. Young children and spouses might feel like they’re not a priority or that they’re being left behind.
Make sure you take time out to spend with your family by asking a caregiver or other family member to stay with your loved one for a while.
A great way to ensure that you spend enough time with your family is to create a family calendar that incorporates fun activities along with all your appointments and other commitments.
Getting Outside Help
Unfortunately, caring for your loved one may become too difficult for you to do alone, and you may have to consider in-home or residential care. It can be a tough decision to make; however, there are several advantages to in-home or residential care:
- Access to professional doctors and nurses
- Medication reminders and assistance
- Making specified meals
- Assistance with daily living activities
- Around-the-clock care
- Scheduled interactive activities that target physical, emotional, and cognitive health
- Specialized care should your loved one have special needs
While it’s lovely to have your loved one home with you, it may be necessary to make the difficult decision to move them to a residential care facility if you feel you aren’t able to provide them with the level of care that they need.
Some of my family members believed that my Grandpa needed to be moved to a care facility, but it didn’t sit right with me.
Since I was his primary caregiver, it was ultimately my decision, though I certainly took all my family members into account. Ultimately, I asked myself these six questions when I considered moving my Grandpa to a care facility
- Is my Grandpa becoming unsafe in our home?
- Is my Grandpa’s health, or my health as his caregiver, at risk?
- Are my Grandpa’s care needs beyond my physical abilities?
- Am I becoming a stressed, irritable and impatient caregiver?
- Am I neglecting work responsibilities, my family, and myself?
- Would the structure and social interaction at a care facility benefit my Grandpa?
I answered no to all of these questions, though the answers are likely to be different for you.
Only you can know what you’re experiencing when it comes to caring for your loved one, and how you’ve answered the above questions should help determine whether you should look into residential care facilities.
Don’t Forget to Put ‘You’ First
My key takeaway from this post is to remind you that you need to put yourself first. Caring for your loved one with dementia is an admirable thing, but it is also physically and emotionally taxing.
In order to do right by your loved one, you have to do right by you. You serve absolutely no one if you reach caregiver burnout and allow your health and well-being to suffer.
Don’t forget that there’s always help out there if you need it. All you have to do is reach out.