If you’re caring for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease, you’ve likely noticed the changes in behavior that result from this progressive disease.
Eventually, the care needed may exceed what can be provided at home and families may begin searching for available options.
But how do you know if it might be time for a memory care community? There are signs that can indicate when more attention may be needed.
Why care needs increase with memory impairment
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are progressive, and although individuals can respond differently, their symptoms – and necessary care – will increase as they move through the different stages of the disease.
Stages of Alzheimer’s disease and caregiving needs
Following is a general outline of the stages and level of care needed for those with dementia:
In the early stages, individuals are usually able to care for themselves almost completely. They might need help to plan ahead for the future or with memory prompts but their caregiving needs are often mostly that of companionship and support.
This stage usually lasts the longest. Your loved one may find it more difficult to express thoughts and emotions and begin experiencing sleep difficulties, all which lead to restlessness and easy irritation. Wandering behavior may also occur. As caregiving responsibilities increase, it can be challenging for caregivers to find time to care for themselves.
As the disease progresses, eventually around-the-clock care is required. Behavior changes may include difficulty with eating, swallowing, walking, and personal care. Caregivers may discover that their loved one’s needs now go beyond what they can provide at home.
Source: Alzheimer’s Association
Risks when adequate care isn’t provided
It can be a challenge for families to provide 24/7 supervision and care but the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias can pose a danger to the individual without this level of supervision. There will come a time when the person cannot be left alone. Here are a few higher risk situations that can occur:
Wandering: if the person wanders outside alone, he or she may become lost, injured or unable to know how to return or who to call for help.
Unable to recognize danger: they may not recognize certain situations, such as fire, or how to get help immediately.
Become more agitated or depressed: this behavior can accompany the diagnosis but may become more prevalent when left alone.
5 signs memory care may be needed
It can be different for each family, but here are 5 of the more common occurrences that may signal it’s time for memory care.
1. Behavioral changes
Loved ones may become aggressive or agitated and direct this frustration toward others. They might become suspicious and accuse their family and friends of theft or not caring about them. They may also begin to withdraw and no longer want to participate in activities they once enjoyed.
Families may notice increased anxiety or agitation in the late afternoon or early evening, known as Sundowning. As the seasons change and the sun sets earlier or later, Circadian rhythms are affected which may lead to certain behaviors or irritations becoming more prominent.
When changes in behavior escalate, they can become too much for the caregiver to manage alone. This is often when outside help is needed.
2. Wandering or other high-risk behaviors
Individuals may cause harm to themselves or others because they don’t recognize the risks. If they leave the home unnoticed they may easily become disoriented and lost. If out in the elements, they may also suffer possible injury.
They may not remember how to return home or where home is and it’s likely they won’t know who to call or how to get help. A memory care community is designed to keep residents safe while encouraging freedom of movement. For more information on the many ways Memory Care neighborhoods are designed to encourage success and independence, read our blog: “The Importance of Design in Memory Care.”
3. Changes in physical health
The impact from Alzheimer’s disease goes beyond memory loss. Physical health and fine motor skills will also deteriorate. Your loved one may begin losing weight because they forget to eat or struggle at meal time. Medication management often becomes more of a challenge.
As the illness progresses, difficulty swallowing can complicate getting enough nutrients. They may lose their ability to walk. The physical requirements can be overwhelming for a caregiver at home while a community has a well-trained, around-the-clock staff.
In a memory care community, purposeful programming helps combat these physical challenges from the time residents wake up until they go to sleep.
4. Others are concerned that more help is needed
If you see your loved one daily, you may not notice all of the changes because they are occurring gradually. But other family members or friends may begin commenting on the difference in behavior or appearance.
Getting a different perspective is critical. Ask others what they think, including your doctor or medical team and ask for any recommendations they might make. Speaking to a memory care community team member can be helpful because their experience makes them a well-informed resource.
5. Inability of caregiver to provide needed care
It’s not uncommon for caregivers to either suffer from exhaustion or become unable to continue to provide care as their own health may begin to deteriorate.
Taking care of someone continuously can exact a toll on both emotional and physical health. If there aren’t others who could share the load or if respite can’t be provided regularly, there may come a time when the primary caregiver’s own health is jeopardized and outside help will be needed.
Life at a Northbridge community
The decision to search for a memory care community is not always easy to make and we hope the above information is helpful when considering the care needs of your loved one.
At our Northbridge communities, we understand the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease but also see the potential and possibilities for our residents that can improve their quality of life and bring even simple pleasures to their days.
If your loved one is no longer safe at home or if the needed level of care is exceeding what can be provided, we invite you to contact us to discuss possible care choices. We are here to answer your questions.
Our supportive associates are specially trained in the best practices of Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Families are assured that their loved ones are supported 24/7 to live their best lives, with our programs, activities, healthy meals and social opportunities.
We’re here to answer any of your questions about our senior living communities. If your loved one is living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, we also invite you to download our complimentary guide, Just the Facts: Your Guide to Memory Care.