The Benefits of In-Home Care for Seniors with Dementia

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Family caregivers are now better able to take advantage of services offered by home care companies. I certainly took advantage of these services throughout my time caring for multiple seniors, including my parents and an elderly neighbor.

The biggest challenge I faced, though, was when I hired professional caregivers for loved ones who had dementia. The caregivers were not always sure how to handle unusual behaviors associated with Alzheimer's or the tricky situations they created. Thankfully, due to increased awareness of the unique challenges that Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia present, reputable home care companies across the country are providing their employees with proper training. Experienced and informed caregivers can provide benefits to both seniors and their family members that make in-home care well worth considering.

Care in a Familiar Environment

The biggest value home care offers is the obvious fact that the elder can remain in his or her home. This option is far less disorienting for a dementia patient than a move to an assisted living facility or a nursing home. Familiar environments offer a great deal of security and peace of mind for individuals with dementia. If a company’s caregivers are well-versed in dementia care, in-home care can be the ideal starting point for families who need extra help with their loved ones and aren't yet ready to think about placement in a long-term care facility.

Patients Find Comfort in Routines

Just as familiar surroundings are safe and soothing, the same can be said for daily routines. Maintaining a schedule similar to the one a senior followed pre-dementia can help reduce anxiety and confusion. For example, an elder who watched the nightly news after dinner each evening for years may feel a sense of normalcy when it’s switched on, even if they don’t completely understand what they are watching.

A fundamental aspect of home care is that services are provided for all clients (with and without dementia) according to personalized scheduling tools called care plans. This organizational technique easily translates into a set routine for dementia patients who thrive on familiarity. Professional caregivers are trained to facilitate daily activities at the appropriate times and provide assistance as needed. Humans are creatures of habit, and preserving these very personal and deeply ingrained routines can help them retain some control and understanding of what is going on around them.

Specialized Training for Specialized Services

Home care companies provide assistance with activities of daily living, companionship and many other core services. In addition, many companies offer professional training in dementia care for their employees. Common aspects of this training include methods for staying engaged with the senior, managing often unpredictable behaviors, communicating effectively, and breaking down activities into smaller steps that are easier to manage. Safety is also a substantial part of this education, since seniors with dementia may be prone to wandering.

There are a number of training programs and schools of thought when it comes to dementia care, so be sure to inquire about the particular education a home care company provides or requires of its caregivers.

Providing Meaningful Engagement

Knowledge of the clinical aspects of dementia allows professionals to better serve their clients and enrich their lives. Perceptive caregivers can provide a positive environment for dementia patients by learning about a senior’s interests before they developed the disease and adapting the way they engage in these meaningful activities. For example, if golf is something the elder enjoyed, they may visit a golf course for a walk or to watch others play the game.
Sensory stimulation is another crucial component of dementia care, especially in the later stages of cognitive impairment. Studies show that participating in music, dance, or other art activities has a positive effect on mental health, physical health, and social functioning in older adults. An experienced caregiver will work to engage clients in activities even as interests and abilities change.

Care That Evolves with the Client

In-home care can be customized to provide as much or as little assistance as a family requires, and changes can be made as often as necessary. Services can be unskilled or skilled in nature and can be provided occasionally for respite or on an around-the-clock basis. This flexibility is a significant advantage for caregivers and seniors who are dealing with progressive diseases such as dementia. As a loved one’s condition progresses, professional caregivers offer the adaptability necessary in caring for an individual with Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

When Home Care Isn’t Enough

The time for thinking about a move to assisted living or a nursing home is different for everyone. The decision depends on whether family members and hired caregivers are able to cope with changes in a senior’s condition. A competent home care company will closely monitor their ability to provide the best care for their patients. Should a client’s needs surpass what is denoted in their current care plan, the company will let the family know that additional services or a change in setting is needed.

Carol Bradley Bursack

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Over the span of two decades, author, columnist, consultant and speaker Carol Bradley Bursack cared for a neighbor and six elderly family members. Her experiences inspired her to pen, "Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories," a portable support group book for caregivers.

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12 Comments

I have a six hour respite day every week and I just wish that we could find a caregiver who could stimulate mom during those hours. Since my world has become almost as small as mom's I ran out of ways to engage her long ago and mostly our days are silent as she no longer participates in conversation with me. I had hoped an outsider might get her to chat, or at least listen, about something new. Believe me I know how pointless it seems to try to include her, but I had hoped for more than a shower, lunch and back to bed.
Sorry but my experience has been very different. I can only report that there is absolutely no understanding from several agencies, up to 100 caregivers that I have observed. They do not even attempt to engage my husband at all in any activities, they ignore requests unless he words them to their satisfaction, and they make their own judgments , rather than follow his care plan. This has been reported to agency executives on the local and national levels, as well as to the Managed Long TermCare department of health at the State level. NOTHING CHANGES! I certainly hope that the situation is as good as this article reports somewhere. But in reality around here, most aides report to clients homes for four hours and will work one hour if we are lucky. They might "give a shower" and tell him to wash himself. If I don't manage to keep my eye on them every minute, they go straight to their cell phones or to comfy chair for a nap. Why does no one listen? Obviously no one cares.
It is so sad to have to be living through this, and then to read all these wonderful sounding things that do not happen anywhere that I know of on this planet. Best wishes to you. You are doing all that is humanly possible.