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Using Team Meetings to Develop a Dementia Care Strategy for a Loved One

02/17/2020

An individual with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease often requires a village of caregivers to help take care of their needs during different stages of the disease. Whether they be family caregivers or providers, caregivers must always be vigilant to make sure their loved one is well cared for and protected.

Living at home is desirable for most people with dementia, but it does present challenges for family caregivers. According to a 2017 report of living arrangements of people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias presented by the US Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 81 percent of people with dementia live out in the community rather than in nursing homes or residential care settings.

As caregivers, it is imperative to have a conversation with a loved one about how their home life will change and what will stay the same. But how do we have this conversation, particularly if a loved one doesn’t believe that anything is wrong or is afraid of change?

A home health care nurse can also sometimes ease any tension that can be brought on by a physician speaking in medical terms a loved one may not understand. Home health care nurses may also help get a loved one to open up about memory lapses, confusion and trouble with time and space relationships, which they might not feel comfortable speaking of without support.

Once a loved one has the chance to discuss the individual challenges they have experienced, we can start to work on strategizing what a loved one may need to continue to live at home, and what care will be most helpful to them not only at the moment, but as the disease progresses. During this discussion, we should include the loved one with dementia as much as possible. A loved one in the early stages of dementia is just as capable of making decisions for themselves as any other adult, and their priorities and values should be taken into consideration. According to Silvia Orsulic-Jeras, a Research Associate and Program Manager of SHARE For Dementia at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, “Research…shows that planning ahead and having discussions about future care as early as possible following a dementia diagnosis can be one of the most effective ways to reduce [our] feelings of guilt and stress while ensuring our loved one’s wishes are honored.”

During this discussion, certain questions should be addressed. What do any changes mean for our family dynamic? Who will be family caregivers and how or when will providers be used? What steps can be taken to keep a loved one safe and cared for within the home? These questions should be answered in a methodical, thoughtful manner. Our team of health care professionals and family caregivers will carry out the plan we put forth, so we should accept input from all parties, especially from the loved one whom this care affects.

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