by ANDREW CARLE, MHSA, for the Sun Gazette
Following holiday gatherings and observations of declines in cognitive skills that can occur among those age 80 and over, calls for information to senior-living communities will reach their peak in January and February each year.
For most families, determining whether a loved one may require the services of a specially designed memory-care or assisted-living community comes down to four factors:
First and foremost, is your loved one safe?
Are they at risk of exiting the home and becoming lost? Leaving the stove on or eating spoiled food? Mismanaging their medications? At risk for telephone or other scams that target the elderly?
Can their daily physical needs be met at home?
Do they require assistance with daily needs such as dressing, bathing and grooming? With instrumental activities such as driving, cooking and home maintenance?
Can their social and emotional needs be met while remaining at home?
With or without cognitive decline, isolation among the elderly is considered a growing epidemic, with research finding loneliness can be as unhealthy as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Even if caregivers are available, do they know how to provide the “tailored” communication and engagement required of someone with Alzheimer’s or related dementia?
Finally, is there sufficient family or friend caregiver support to address each of the above?
According to national data, caregiving for an older adult averages 26 hours per week, but increases to more than 65 hours per week during the last year of care. Those caring for loved ones with dementia may also spend up to four years longer providing care than to those without.
Answering the above questions can help determine if reaching out to a memory-care assisted-living community should be your next step in the caregiving process.
Andrew Carle is a recognized expert in Alzheimer’s and related dementia services and serves as adjunct faculty and lead instructor the program in Senior Living Administration at Georgetown University. He currently is a consultant advisor to a $56 million renovation, including national-model memory-care services, at The Virginian, a 300-plus-resident full continuum retirement community in Fairfax.