The challenges can be enormous for a family coping with dementia. Unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia, so this progressive disease requires long-term care planning and a careful eye towards providing supportive and safe care. A lot of people may not know what is the appropriate kind of care for those with dementia. It also requires a lot of flexibility, understanding, and compassion from a loved one’s family members and friends.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What’s Home Care for Dementia Patients?
- How Do You Know If a Dementia Patient is Ready for Home Care?
- How Do You Usually Pay for Home Care for a Dementia Patient?
- How to Find the Best Home Care for a Dementia Patient
One of those options available for those with dementia is care at home. Below we detail what home care consists of, and how it can be helpful for those with dementia.
What’s Home Care for Dementia Patients?
Home care for dementia patients is intended to keep someone in their home for as long as possible. Dementia progresses differently for everyone, meaning that this might be possible depending on the disease’s trajectory. Some dementia patients decline slowly and have few medical problems along the way. Others have a more rapid decline complicated by pre-existing chronic medical issues.
Home care can provide enough support for many patients by taking some of the caregiver load off of family members. Safety and well-being are the focal points of care, along with mental stimulation and companionship.
Difference between assisted living, nursing home, and home care for dementia patients
Assisted living and nursing home care for dementia patients are both residential care communities with a few differences. Home care is caregiver support in the home either through private pay or insurance.
Many families prefer to keep their loved ones at home as long as possible and delay assisted living or nursing home care. With enough home care, this is possible, although the cost can get prohibitive.
Individuals with mild cognitive impairment often can do well in assisted living. The kind of support offered in assisted living can be enough to keep someone safe, active, and reasonably independent.
With the help of aides, planned meals, and structured activities, residents can manage until they get worse. Assisted living is not specifically designed to handle people with memory problems, but their staff can help residents who have memory problems.
Memory care communities are designed for people who can’t manage at home or assisted living. Wandering, aggression, severe memory problems, and self-harm may also lead to a recommendation of memory care.
As a result, memory care units are locked and secure. Their staff provides one on one supervision when necessary, and activities focus on individuals with cognitive impairment.
Nursing home care is intensive medical care when no other option is available. A person with dementia and no medical needs is unlikely to be admitted to a nursing home. They must have a skilled need such as nursing or physical and occupational therapy. The kinds of medical issues that qualify someone for nursing home care are:
- Mobility and transfer problems
- IV medications and injections
- Wound and catheter care
- 24-hour nursing and aide care
Home care is a valuable service that provides private caregivers to look after a loved one. Scheduling is very flexible, so you can contract for the hours you want and change those according to your loved one’s needs.
Each state sets restrictions for what tasks a caregiver can and cannot perform. Some states allow for more medically oriented duties, and others are more restrictive. Make certain you are familiar with what a caregiver provides in your state to ensure home care can provide the care you need.
At a minimum, caregivers can offer transportation, shopping, cooking, light housekeeping, organizing, and companionship. According to Genworth, the median cost for care for caregivers was $22.50 an hour. This cost will vary across the country and depends on the number of hours you need.
If you decide not to go through an agency and hire on your own, be aware of some potential issues. Consider liability insurance, conduct criminal background checks, and have back-up care if someone is a no show.
How Do You Know If a Dementia Patient is Ready for Home Care?
Dementia is a progressive disease. The course of the disease will vary for each person, but almost everyone gets worse over time. Why is this important? Because convincing a loved one to accept care in the home can get much more challenging over time. It’s better to start planning for home care sooner rather than later. These are some of the signs that someone with dementia might be ready for home care.
- Safety concerns. Safety concerns should be taken seriously. If your loved one shows any of these signs, it is time to get some help: leaving the stove on, wandering, falling, problems with shopping and cooking, and difficulty managing finances.
- Vulnerability to exploitation. If you don’t have healthcare and financial power of attorney, you may want to get them both as soon as possible. Having advance directives gives you the authority to intervene if your loved one is being exploited or you need to obtain vital healthcare information.
- Deferred or neglected home maintenance. Keep track of whether your family member has neglected home maintenance to the point of creating potential safety hazards. Examples are electrical or plumbing problems, structural issues like roof repair or replacement, and inability to manage lawn care. Another possible cause of neglected home maintenance is the mismanagement of finances due to confusion over bill paying. If the utilities are disconnected, it is most likely because of overdue bills. With financial power of attorney, you can take over bill paying.
- Self-neglect. Self-neglect is a common characteristic of dementia. It can start slowly and be difficult to recognize. Signs of the inability to care for oneself are poor hygiene, soiled clothing, medication mismanagement, and medical neglect. Individuals with dementia often refuse to accept help, which exacerbates all of the other problems. Self-neglect can also lead to health-related issues such as an increase in infections, dehydration, and malnutrition.
- Isolation. Isolation might not seem like a significant problem at first, but it can lead to depression and anxiety. People become isolated when they can no longer drive and which separates them from friends and family. Memory issues can cause someone to feel uncomfortable in social situations, so they avoid them altogether.
How Do You Usually Pay for Home Care for a Dementia Patient?
Dementia care through an agency or hiring on your own is private pay. The only possible way to offset those costs is if your loved one has a long-term care insurance plan that covers in-home care, and there might be a 90-day elimination period.
If your family member is a veteran or the spouse of a veteran, there may be support services available through the Veteran’s Administration. One such program is the Aid and Attendance program. The Aid and Attendance program does have income and asset requirements. Through Medicare, home health care can provide short term nursing and rehabilitation, but home care is the only long-term option.
How to Find the Best Home Care for a Dementia Patient
Looking for and finding the best home care for a dementia patient depends on several factors. On the one hand, you may have few options or on the other, you may have an overwhelming number of choices. Either way, take your time by following our tips to find excellent home care.
Look for specialized dementia care
More and more home care agencies offer specialized dementia training to their caregivers. Ask the agency specifics about their training.
Are all caregivers trained in dementia care or only select ones? What is their lesson schedule, and what topics do they discuss? Ask about emergency procedures and dealing with aggressive patients. What criteria does the agency use when deciding to withdraw care?
Ask for recommendations
Talk to friends, other family members, and health care providers to get recommendations. Most home care companies are franchises, which means that corporate culture is important, but each franchise is independently owned and operated.
Once you have your recommended agencies, call and speak with the owner. Inquire about caregiver coverage, lines of communication, and mandatory training. Find out about caregiver notes, whether they are handwritten, and if they are available online.
When you have identified the agencies you are interested in, ask for references. In addition, consider calling families that are using or have used the company and ask these questions:
- Have you been satisfied with the service?
- What do you like most and least about the agency?
- Is there seamless handling of caregiver absences?
- Has communication and scheduling gone well?
- Do the caregivers seem well-trained, compassionate, and responsible?
Meet any potential caregivers
Once you have contracted with an agency for home care, ask to meet two or three potential caregivers in the company of your loved one who has dementia. This introduction will give you a chance to see how everyone interacts.
In addition, it can also help when the caregiver starts the first shift, so it is not as much of a shock. Having some familiarity might make things go more smoothly for someone with dementia.
A Guide to Dementia Home Care
For someone who has dementia, their everyday experience can be frightening and confusing. However, by working in conjunction with them and the care of physicians to help your loved one, you can find the right home care for your loved one. Acting early to find good home care can help your loved one stay safe and improve the quality of their life.
If you're looking for more help caring for a loved one with dementia, read our guides on books on dementia and how to move a parent with dementia to assisted living.
- “Cost of Care Survey.” Genworth Financial, www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html
- “VA Aid and Attendance.” US Department of Veterans Affairs, www.va.gov/pension/aid-attendance-housebound/