While dementia care can seem overwhelming, it is important to remember that there are a number of options available. The level of care a loved one with dementia requires depends, in part, on the severity of their dementia. "Additional assistance is needed when a person with dementia requires more help than the family can provide," says Ruth Kandel, M.D., a geriatrician at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center and director of its Outpatient Memory Disorders Clinic. "In addition, if your loved one is wandering or exhibiting behavior that is no longer safe, then they are no longer capable of being left alone."
But what options exist? Early on, many families can take care of loved ones with dementia by themselves or with the help of companion care. Community-based services can help families care for a relative with dementia, including:
Adult day health care - These programs provide structure, socialization and activities for adults who need assistance. Some programs are designed specifically for people with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. Most programs offer meals, activities and transportation, and are generally available during the daytime hours.
Home health care - For families who want to keep their loved one at home, there are home health-care agencies that provide 24/7 care or complement family time at home, if that is a safe option. Others provide assistance with activities of daily living such as dressing, grooming and toileting, as well as nursing care and medication administration.
When an individual with dementia can no longer function at home, even with assistance from their family, and requires even more help with daily activities, it may be time to explore additional options, including:
Assisted living - Assisted living facilities support people who need help with personal care and daily activities, but don't need the around-the-clock care provided by a long-term care facility. Some assisted living facilities have memory support units for individuals with dementia to help enhance cognitive and physical abilities.
Dementia care unit - Special dementia care units are often offered at assisted living or long-term care facilities for residents who also have behavioral symptoms that cannot be effectively managed in a less structured environment. These facilities offer more specialized services, specially trained staff, activity-based programming, and secured exits.
Nursing Home Long-term care facility - Long-term care facilities provide 24-hour nursing care, as well as room and board. Some have designated dementia units for people with Alzheimer's disease.