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Long-term Alzheimer's Care Options

Senior woman with Alzheimer's in her home.
You want to do everything you can for your loved one, but as Alzheimer's disease progresses, it is likely you and your loved one will eventually need some type of outside help.

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February 6, 2012

“Whatever happens to me, I don’t want to end up in a nursing home!” Ever heard your parents say that before? Older adults commonly express that wish, or some variation of it, fearing the possibility of becoming completely dependent on others and being left to the care of strangers rather than remaining amongst family.

However, when loved ones develop a progressive disease like Alzheimer’s or other dementias, reconciling their wishes with the reality of their needs can pose challenges for even the most devoted family caregivers. You want to do everything you can for your loved one, but as the disease progresses, it is likely you and your loved one will eventually need some type of outside help.

Whether you’re at that crossroads right now or just planning ahead, consider the following long-term care options for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.

Options for Remaining at Home

Non-medical In-home Care
In-home care allows your loved one to remain in the comfort of familiar surroundings—which is especially important to someone experiencing memory loss—and retain a maximum level of independence. Particularly beneficial for individuals in the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s disease, but also a viable option for individuals at any stage of the disease, this type of care includes assistance with basic task of daily living such as preparing meals, laundry, transportation to appointments, medication reminders and more.

One of the most important aspects of this care is companionship and supervision, which can bring peace of mind to family members, whether they live nearby or miles away. Care providers may include family members, friends, neighbors or professional caregivers employed by a home care agency. Professional caregivers with specialized Alzheimer’s training provide personalized one-on-one care, customized to your loved one’s specific behaviors. Caregivers are also able to facilitate engaging and mind-stimulating activities tailored to your loved one’s individual interests and abilities. Many home care agencies, such as Home Instead Senior Care, offer free, no-obligation consultations to help you determine if this option is right for your loved one with Alzheimer’s.

Medical In-home Care
This type of care brings the skilled nursing assistance you may find in an assisted living or nursing care facility into the home. Medical assistance may include administering medications, wound care, IV therapy or injections, physical therapy, pain management, or advanced care to help minimize difficult Alzheimer’s behaviors. These services usually only take place during short visits to accomplish specific medical needs and don’t provide companionship and supervision. If your loved one has these types of medical needs, a combination of medical and non-medical care is usually ideal. Not all home care agencies are licensed to provide this level of care, so before starting services, be sure to ask the care coordinator if they can provide the level of care your loved one needs.

Adult Day Services
Day services for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias can supplement in-home care. Many day programs offer transportation to and from the day care facility, provide lunchtime meals and offer various activities designed especially for individuals with dementia.

Options for Care in a Facility

Assisted Living
Residential care facilities, another option for long-distance family caregivers, offer 24-hour supervision, along with meals, activities and community. This option works best for those in the early and middle stages of Alzheimer’s while he or she still retains some independence. Each assisted living facility is unique in terms of the range of care services it provides, so it’s important to visit the facility and ask specific questions about how they handle residents with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, and what services are covered by the monthly cost.

Specialized Facility for Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias
Specialized facilities for Alzheimer’s and dementia residents—or specialized units within an assisted living or nursing facility—are designed to meet the unique needs of residents suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. For example, residents that wander (a typical behavior associated with Alzheimer’s) will benefit from enhanced safety features such as secure exits, visual cues around the facility to help orient them in otherwise unfamiliar surroundings, and additional staff members to provide more supervision and assistance. Specialized dementia facilities also offer activities, exercises and therapies that stimulate the mind and ensure your loved one receives a complete “memory care” experience.

Skilled Nursing Homes
Nursing facilities provide 24/7 care for individuals that can no longer care for themselves. As your loved one reaches the later stages of Alzheimer’s, around-the-clock care will become necessary for assistance with basic tasks of daily living such as dressing, eating, bathing, toileting and mobility. This care option may become necessary if your loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementias needs more care than the aforementioned options can provide or would be financially possible.

View the Housing Options for Seniors video series to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of the long-term care options for your loved one. You can also further explore care options for your loved one with Stages of Senior Care, a step-by-step guide to making the best senior care decisions.

The more you know, the better your loved one's care will be. Free online training and expert tips at

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