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Dementia Care: Meeting with a Home Health Care Team

An individual with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease requires a village of caregivers to help take care of his or her needs during different stages of the disease. Whether they be family caregivers or providers, caregivers must be vigilant at all times to make sure their senior adult is protected.

Living at home is desirable for most people with dementia, but it does present challenges for the family caregivers. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 70 percent of those who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are currently living at home.

If you are a family caregiver, and your loved one has just been diagnosed—or has not been diagnosed yet—it is imperative to have a conversation with your loved one about how his or her life will change and what will stay the same. How do you have this conversation, particularly if your loved one doesn’t believe that anything is wrong or is afraid of change?

Older adults experiencing dementia may refuse to go to the doctor’s office because they are in denial about their condition. Consider bringing in a home health nurse or nurse practitioner to the home for them to make a full assessment of your loved one’s physical and behavioral status. Addressing your loved one’s illness in a non-threatening way, such as in the home, will hopefully make your loved one more comfortable

A home health care nurse can ease any tension that can sometimes be brought on by a physician speaking in medical terms your loved one doesn’t understand. These professionals can also get your loved one to open up about memory lapses, confusion and trouble with time and space relationships.

Once your loved one has the chance to sort out the lapses and issues he or she has been facing, you can start to work on strategizing how life for your loved one will work. If your loved one is agreeable to making changes, by all means, include him or her in the planning process.

What does this mean for the family dynamic? Who will be family caregivers and how or when will providers be used? These questions must be answered in a methodical, thoughtful manner. Your “team” of health care professionals and family caregivers will carry out any plan you put forth. Accept input from all parties, especially your loved one whom this care affects.

These meetings with a home health nurse or nurse practitioner can become a part of your loved one’s—and your family’s—routine. You can use these meetings as baselines for how your loved one is doing, since you and your fellow family caregivers are with your loved one more often than health care providers. You can also use them to set care goals and expectations over time.