March 12, 2012
For individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias, having loving spouses, children or grandchildren devoted to caring for them can make all the difference in the world. To senior care professionals, it's usually quite obvious when such a strong support system is absent. Not only is it heartbreaking, it also makes it difficult to ensure those Alzheimer's patients receive the care they need.
The following suggestions can help you address family support-related matters that may interfere with individuals receiving the proper Alzheimer's care.
- Learn about community resources.
Connect with your local Area Agency on Aging to familiarize yourself with options available to dementia patients lacking family support. If a patient with dementia lives alone without any family members or friends close by who can help, safety is a huge concern. But depending on the case, moving to an assisted living facility or nursing home may not be necessary or financially practical for the individual. Recommending community resources such as adult day care or home care services can help your patient retain some independence while helping to ensure that your patient is safe and well-cared for.
- Educate family members.
In cases where an individual has received a diagnosis of Alzheimer's and family members are around but seem unwilling or unable to help, perhaps denial or a fear of the unknown keeps them from stepping up to the plate. If possible, involve both patient and available family members in discussions about the disease management plan, and make sure the family understands the characteristics, progression and care requirements of the disease. Refer them to Alzheimer's family caregiver resources for additional education and support.
- Help bridge the communication gap.
As you may well know, family members often disagree over important care decisions, which can delay or keep your Alzheimer's patient from receiving the right care. If you or your patient feel caught in the middle of a family disagreement, the 70-40 Rule® and 50-50 Rule® publications offer some helpful advice for open communication and resolving family conflicts surrounding an older adult's care.
- Recognize and report signs of elder abuse.
Neglect—a caregiver's failure or refusal to provide for a vulnerable elder's safety, physical, or emotional needs—is a form of elder abuse. Learn the warning signs and report any suspicion of elder abuse to the local adult protective services agency or law enforcement.
No one deserves to find themselves at the end of their life with a disease like Alzheimer's and no one to advocate for them. Armed with these tips and resources, you can help your patients live a higher-quality life with the support they need.
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