YOUR AGING MOM WHO’S living with dementia has always been conscientious about opening her mail and paying her bills. You and other family members check on her regularly to see she’s OK. Yet over time, relatives notice she’s letting her mail accumulate unopened and forgetting to pay her bills.
These are potential signs that someone who’s living with dementia may need memory care, says Dr. Elaine Healy, a geriatrician and vice president of medical affairs and medical director of United Hebrew of New Rochelle in New York.
About 5.8 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Family members care for some people with dementia, and others live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
Memory Care Units
People with dementia who exhibit certain kinds of behavior that affect their day-to-day living are better off in the memory care unit of such facilities, Healy says. These are units where staff members are trained in working with people with dementia who require specialized care.
Here are five behaviors or circumstances that can indicate someone needs memory care:
- Changes in behavior.
- Confusion and disorientation that imperils physical safety.
- A decline in physical health.
- A caregiver’s deterioration.
1. Changes in behavior.
Some people with dementia may start acting in dramatically different ways. “Someone very independent may suddenly be apprehensive about driving, decline social invitations and become withdrawn,” Healy says. “Someone meticulous about their appearance may suddenly forget daily hygiene or how to do basic tasks like bathing and hair styling, and are too embarrassed to ask (for help).” A person may become more anxious or agitated.
2. Confusion and disorientation that imperils physical safety.
3. A decline in physical health.
“Physical changes are often the first noticeable differences when someone has dementia or Alzheimer’s,” Healy says. If someone becomes thin or frail, it may mean he or she is forgetting to shop for groceries or take medications as directed. Some people with dementia forget to take their prescription medication. And some forget whether they’ve taken their medication and take more than they are supposed to.
4. A caregiver’s deterioration or death.
Some people with dementia are cared for by relatives, often a spouse or significant other. When the caregiver dies or his or her health falters, that often means the spouse or significant other who is being cared for needs a higher level of attention, like memory care, says Dr. Rhonna Shatz, a behavioral neurologist at the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation. She’s also an associate professor or neurology and the Bob and Sandy Heimann chair in research and education of Alzheimer’s disease at the University of Cincinnati. In addition, Shatz is medical director of the Memory Disorders Center at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute. Shatz says she recently had a patient with Alzheimer’s whose health seemed to be faltering rapidly. He’d lost weight and was increasingly confused. Shatz identified that his wife, the primary caregiver was impaired. Shatz investigated and learned the wife had developed dementia and was unable to shop and cook for him and make sure her husband took his medications. A daughter then arranged for the couple to move from their home into memory care.
Caregivers can handle a lot, but if incontinence begins to be a big problem, many start to look for memory care, says Dr. R. Scott Turner, professor of neurology and director of the Memory Disorders Program at Georgetown University in the District of Columbia. “They feel overwhelmed, they feel it’s more than they can handle, more than they signed up for,” he says. “It becomes too much.” This can affect both nonprofessional caregivers like family members and hired medical providers who come into the home to provide assistance.
This article is based on reporting that features expert sources including Ruth Drew, MS, LPC; Elaine Healy, MD; Nora O’Brien, DPT, PT; Rhonna Shatz, DO; R. Scott Turner, MD, PhD and shared from U.S.News