Dementia is a progressive disease that gets worse over a number of years. Eventually, dementia patients lose their ability to live independently and need help from others to do daily tasks and stay safe. Being a caregiver for someone with dementia can be very demanding and challenging, especially in the latter stages of the disease. The emotional and physical toll caring for someone with dementia takes on you can be tough to handle, and you might feel like you’re unable to provide adequate care for them, leaving you to question whether a care home might be the best option.
Deciding to put a loved one in a care home is an important decision and not one that is made easily. There are lots of factors that will influence whether or not a care home is the right choice, especially if you’re struggling with the guilt and feelings of abandonment that so many dementia caregivers experience when considering third-party care for their loved one.
If you’re looking after someone with dementia and are unsure whether it’s the right time to transfer care duties to professional carers, read on. We treat dementia patients everyday and know the care challenges that arise as the condition gets worse, and we regularly support caregivers and help them to make decisions that are in the best interests of their loved ones and themselves. We recognise that making the decision to put a dementia patient into care is far from easy, and knowing the right time to do it can be tricky, which is why we’ve put together this advice article on the subject.
Is a care home necessary for someone with dementia?
First and foremost, it’s important to keep in mind that every dementia patient is different and has unique needs. Whilst there are several types of dementia, most dementia patients are able to live relatively independently in the earlier stages and with intermediate amounts of care in the middle stages. Some people with dementia stay in the early and middle stages for years, meaning a care home might not be necessary for them for quite some time.
However, some patients progress faster, reaching the later stages of the disease where everyday living becomes extremely difficult. It’s common for all dementia patients in the final stages of the disease to need round-the-clock care as they become unable to think independently, complete daily tasks like getting dressed and cooking, or experience things like incontinence and trouble eating.
3 things to look out for when considering a care home
When determining if a care home is necessary, there are some key things you’ll need to look out for. As mentioned, in the earlier stages, you may notice that dementia symptoms are mild and your loved one can live a fairly normal life with minimal intervention, but if you notice any of the below, it could be time to start considering if a care home could provide the best level of care.
1. Issues with mobility
Mobility issues tend to become more present in the later stages (with the exception of Parkinsonian dementia which presents physical symptoms before cognitive symptoms). If your loved one is finding it hard to move normally, hold their balance, is dropping things, or is having falls, it might be time to consider a care home.
In old age, falls can be particularly dangerous as the risk of a serious injury like a broken bone increases. If you don’t live with your loved one and they have a fall in the night or after you’ve gone home, they could potentially be on the floor in pain for hours. Walking aids and safety aids can be implemented, but if accidents are becoming more frequent, it may get to a point where it’s too dangerous for the person with dementia to be home alone. If you’re not in a position to be with them 24/7, a care home may be the safest place for them.
2. Caregiver stress
Caring for someone with dementia can be extremely challenging and draining, both physically and mentally. You might feel as though you’re solely responsible for their safety and wellbeing but you’ve had no training or caring experience, making the situation tricky for you. It can also be emotionally difficult to see a loved one decline as their dementia progresses, and this can cause additional stress.
When you’re stressed, your own health will suffer and you won’t be able to provide the highest level of care and attention possible, meaning both you and your loved one may suffer as a consequence. If you notice that you’re getting stressed out, if you feel that you’re out of your depth, or like you can’t provide the level of care that is needed, it may be time to start thinking about a care home.
Some people with dementia don’t know where they are. This causes them to go out and wander, and this can be dangerous. The last thing you want is for your loved one to get lost because they’ve wandered onto the street. Wandering can also pose a number of other risks besides getting lost, including the risk of getting hit by a car, falling over, or even taken advantage of by criminals looking for a vulnerable person to steal from or harm.
For the safety of the person with dementia, if they start wandering, it may be best to consider a secure care home where they won’t be able to get out.
How do care homes benefit people with dementia?
Admitting a loved one into a care home is hard, largely because you’re wondering if you’re doing the right thing. Most care homes are specialised around dementia and can provide expert treatment and monitoring that isn’t available at home. In the later stages when care needs increase, this is often the best place for them.
One of the biggest advantages of care homes is that they provide round-the-clock care, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. If you’re the sole caregiver to a person with dementia, providing the same level of constant care will eventually burn you out and result in poor health on your part. Instead, a care home has a roster of staff who will provide exemplary care all hours of the day, meaning you can rest well knowing that day or night, your loved one is safe.
Improved quality of life
When you put a loved one in a care home, their quality of life (and yours) will improve. This isn’t to say that the care you were providing is sub-par; but rather that with specialist dementia carers who are experts in their field, your loved one will benefit from increased knowledge and experience.
Many care homes have specialist equipment that makes movement and care easier, and they run activities designed for people with dementia which can be undertaken alongside other residents. In addition, your quality of life will improve because the burden on you is eased, meaning the time you do get to spend with your loved one is enjoyable and free from caring pressures.
Getting the right therapy and medication
As dementia progresses, a number of new symptoms may crop up which means different types of treatment therapies and medications are required. This can be hard to keep on top of and can cause a lot of stress for you as a caregiver as you try to remember the right doses and the right times that medications are to be given at. In a care home, this stress is removed from you.
Reduced stress for caregivers
As mentioned, there is a lot of stress for caregivers when it comes to looking after someone with dementia. It’s not an easy job and can quickly turn into a full time caring role. It can also put a strain on your relationship with your loved one as you can’t simply enjoy your time with them; you’re always thinking about what comes next. A care home can give you your relationship with your family member and your life back.
When is the right time?
So, when is the right time for a person with dementia to go into care? Well, it depends on their symptoms. If you feel it’s too unsafe for them to be at home, that you can’t provide the care they need, or that their care needs or behaviour is becoming too challenging, it’s usually the right time to think about finding a care home. If they can still live independently, safely, and you feel capable of caring for them, you can hold off for a little longer.
Who makes the decision?
Dementia generally progresses over a number of years, and in the early stages, people with the condition are generally still able to make decisions for themselves. In the early stages, it’s a good idea to have a discussion with them and let them make their own decision about what their personal care will look like and at what stage they think it may be appropriate for them to move into a home.
That being said, it isn’t always possible for the person with dementia to make their own decisions due to a lack of cognitive reasoning and understanding. In this case, provided you have a lasting power of attorney (LPA) in place, you can make a decision on their behalf. You will also have authority to make decisions relating to property and financial affairs if your loved one didn’t already plan ahead earlier on. If you do this, it’s always best to try and communicate with your loved one as best as you can about the situation. In any case, their best interests need to be at the forefront of any decision you make.
How do you find a care home for a dementia patient?
There are lots of care homes in the UK that provide care for a person with dementia. In a best case scenario, you’ll request a care needs assessment from your local authority’s social services department to determine the level of care is needed and whether all costs will be covered and how the care is to be paid for.
You can arrange visits to care homes to see what they’re like and find the right one for your loved one, and your local authority may recommend a specific nursing home that suits the patient’s needs based on their earlier assessment. The earlier on in the dementia diagnosis you discuss residential care, the better the decision you make when it comes to choosing an adequate home.
Dementia treatment at Dementech Neurosciences
It is possible to provide dementia treatment at home for a number of years before a care home is required. At Dementech Neurosciences, we have a comprehensive team of dementia specialists who can help you find the right treatment plan for your loved one, as well as support you in making decisions about future care when the time comes. To find out more, please contact us.
Below, we’ve answered some of the most common questions we get asked about dementia care.
When should someone with dementia go into a care home?
There is no definitive answer as to when someone with dementia should go into a care home, but generally speaking, when they reach the latter stages of the disease and they require constant care to stay safe and well, or as soon as you feel unable to provide the care they need, it may be time to start looking at care homes.
Who makes the decision to put someone with dementia in a care home?
Ideally, the person with dementia will have thought about care homes in the earlier stages of their diagnosis and made a decision then, but if not and they don’t have the mental capacity to make their own decisions, family members may do it on their behalf.