The average lifespan of a patient with Alzheimer’s disease is 7 years, but they can live for up to 20 years. In that time, they will get progressively worse, making life increasingly tougher for care providers.
The level of care changes substantially over time, so it’s important to plan long-term care solutions as early as possible. The question is, what option is best for your needs and the needs of your loved one? Are they better suited to a nursing home or an assisted living facility, or can they survive with home health dementia care services?
Managing Alzheimer’s at Home
Following a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, it may take several years before the patient progresses to a point where they can no longer care for themselves. A family caregiver can provide support during this time and maintain some sense of normalcy in the person’s life, allowing them to enjoy their time with friends and family members before the disease progresses.
An inexperienced familial caretaker may struggle with the demands of long-term care and could be at risk of caregiver stress, whereby a caregiver neglects their own health and well-being to focus on the patient.
Care should be planned in advance to reduce the risk of caregiver stress. Be realistic about the type of care you can provide and whether this will be enough by considering what happens in the future as well as what’s happening right now.
Are there are friends or family members who can help you? Can you utilize meal delivery companies and homemaker services to lighten the load? Have you considered home renovations?
In the later stages of the disease, Alzheimer caregivers work full-time, which is not a commitment that everyone can make.
For additional help, consult with the National Institute on Aging and look into respite care and adult day services. These care options can take some of the burden off your shoulders and allow you to continue meeting your loved one’s care needs without jeopardizing your own health.
In-Home Care Services
An in-home care service provides essential health care in the home, letting patients age in place and enjoy their independence.
The goal is to assist with the activities of daily living (ADLs), including providing assistance with personal care, such as toilet needs, bathing, and dressing. In addition, homemaker services can help with mealtimes, housekeeping, and grocery shopping.
In some cases, these services will be covered by Medicare. For others, you can speak with your local Alzheimer’s Association for recommendations. Look for an agency that specializes in Alzheimer’s and dementia care. The costs can vary depending on the level of care required.
Residential Care Facilities
After the early stages of the disease, Alzheimer’s becomes increasingly difficult to deal with. Initially, the patient may struggle to remember names and dates, while experiencing some symptoms of anxiety and depression. Generally, however, they will maintain some resemblance of normality and can continue living their life as before, albeit with a little more support and guidance.
As the disease progresses, their judgment, personal hygiene, mobility, and continence will be affected and, at this point, independent living is no longer possible. In such cases, it makes more sense to investigate long-term care solutions that will provide 24-hour supervision in specialist facilities or communities.
Specialist care facilities provide a mixture of personal care and medical care, but they can also be very expensive. A nursing home can cost over $80,000 per year, with higher costs for private rooms. An assisted living facility is a little more affordable, averaging around $50,000 per year, but it’s still a sizeable investment.
Long-term care insurance, Medicare, and VA benefits can help with some of these costs but only in the short-term. All other costs must be paid for out of pocket.
When looking into nursing home care and other long-term care facilities, make sure you visit your chosen locations, speak with staff members, ask lots of questions, and get a good feel for the place.
These residential facilities provide different levels of care. Assisted living communities often contain Special Care Units (SCUs), also known as memory care units, and provide a mixture of skilled nursing and social activities.
Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) fall under this umbrella as well. They charge upfront costs and monthly fees and provide a scalable level of care, allowing them to adapt to the changing needs of the patient.
Are These Facilities Safe?
Care homes have come under a lot of scrutiny in recent years. It began with reports of nursing home abuse and worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which time many of these facilities were hit hard.
Firstly, while nursing home abuse does happen, it’s probably not as common as the scare stories can make you believe. These facilities are not very well regulated and don’t always vet their staff as well as they should. Furthermore, there are over 1.6 million nursing home residents, so while it seems that a disproportionate number suffer from abuse, comparatively speaking, the number is actually quite low.
As for the Coronavirus, it is a very harmful disease and the risk of infection increases significantly when people live in close quarters. It also disproportionately impacts the elderly. Unfortunately, the spread of this virus in such facilities and the catastrophic damage it caused was inevitable. Many facilities did everything they could to keep their COVID numbers low but were ultimately helpless. This was true all over the world, not just in the USA.
To make sure the facility is clean, the staff are skilled, and everything operates as it should, read reviews, consult with staff members, owners, and patients, and look for any complaints and reports made against the location.
Hospice care is a type of care designed to provide comfort for people in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s. It can occur at home, in a nursing home, or in another specialist facility, and it involves a team of nurses, medical professionals, social services, and more.
These services are generally reserved for people in the last six months of life, and they are often covered by Medicare.