When your loved one receives a diagnosis of dementia of any kind, life changes. While the disease itself will not progress to its latest stages immediately, your mind is probably racing. How will you care for your mother or father? What will he or she need as the condition advances? These questions are normal, and their answers will vary depending on your parent’s circumstances. There are a few ways to begin to address long-term dementia care planning as soon as your parent is diagnosed, each of which we’ll review below.
“When your parent is diagnosed with dementia, life changes.”
When your parent is still lucid
If your mother or father is in the early stages of dementia, involve him or her in the decision-making process as much as you can. This will ensure care later in his or her life conforms to his or her wishes. It can also give you considerable peace of mind to know your parent understands the eventual need for memory care in an assisted living community – many adult children of people with dementia are afraid to feel they are abandoning their parents, but having a conversation about residential care in advance can help alleviate these feelings.
While your parent is able to do so, it is also ideal to set up powers of attorney for financial and health care matters. It will be vital to be able to work with the person managing your parent’s finances in order to pay for assisted living, and it will also be necessary to make decisions about your parent’s care when he or she can no longer do so. If your parent is able to choose who makes these decisions, everything will proceed more smoothly. It is also an ideal time to set up a release of medical information so you can be as involved as possible in your parent’s care.
When your parent can no longer help plan
It may be the case that, for whatever reason, you are planning dementia care for a parent who can no longer provide input on his or her wishes. This is very difficult, both practically and emotionally, and it’s important for you to have support throughout this process. As you begin to investigate care options like assisted living centers, focus on finding a place with staff members who are both compassionate and informative – these are the people you would like to have watching over your parent, as well as helping you make hard choices.
Speaking to your parent’s doctor can also be helpful at this stage of the planning process. Understanding how his or her dementia is likely to progress is important, as is having an idea of exactly what his or her care needs will look like as the disease progresses. While many people attempt to care for parents with dementia in the home for as long as possible, it is a huge commitment – and your parent will eventually need round-the-clock care. This means the time to begin investigating memory care communities is now, not later, as it is also the time to make financial and legal preparations.
Resources for care planning
As you plan dementia care for your parent, know there is help available to you. You will want to consult with a lawyer as you establish power of attorney, conservatorship or any other necessary arrangements. Working with someone well-versed in elder law can take a huge weight off your shoulders. You may also wish to talk to a financial planner with experience in making arrangements for long-term care. Finally, other children of people with dementia who have gone through the process before can be great resources, as can professionals at the assisted living communities you are investigating.
With the help of professionals and the support of your family and friends, planning for your parent’s long-term dementia care is possible.