Are you caring for a parent or other loved one in need of memory support due to dementia, cognitive changes related to aging, or Alzheimer’s disease? Or, are you planning ahead for your own potential future care needs as you enter retirement?
You are certainly not alone. There are more resources now than ever before dedicated to memory support and care needs, as well as assistance for caregivers and loved ones.
But, how do you wade through all of the information out there to make the right decisions? And what resources are most helpful? Today we’re taking a closer look at the best resources for memory problems and dementia.
Your family doctor
While Alzheimer’s disease is often the first thing people assume is wrong when we talk about the need for memory care, it’s not always to blame. A consultation with your family physician should be your first step when beginning the memory support journey so that comprehensive medical testing can help reveal the true cause of memory loss or dementia. Once a diagnosis has been made, you will have a necessary baseline of information to begin seeking support through a variety of other strategies.
The term “early intervention” means precisely what it sounds like – catching a problem early so it can be corrected or managed right away. There are often significant benefits to beginning treatment and support for dementia and memory loss conditions as early as possible. Degeneration can be slowed, and many illnesses can be treated to help patients get back to living their lives.
Dementia and memory loss can crop up well before some adults reach the traditional retirement age of 65. And these are not always symptomatic of Alzheimer’s or even just the aging process. Other conditions, some of which are completely treatable, may cause cognitive issues that interfere with daily life. Pursuing help from your trusted family physician or general practitioner is a key first step in early intervention, of course.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are ten early warning signs of Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Discuss any of these that apply with your doctor as soon as possible:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work, or in leisure time
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood or personality
It’s true that some of the things on this list may apply to just about everyone – we all lose things or have occasional challenges with planning or solving problems, for instance. However, it’s important to note whether these are changes for the particular individual and to determine whether they are disrupting daily life on a more regular basis than previously.
When a diagnosis of dementia (either generalized or related to another disease like Parkinson’s) or Alzheimer’s is given, patients and family members/caregivers naturally have a lot of questions. While your doctor can be a good source of information, high-quality educational courses or seminars will arm you with the best knowledge.
Books and other educational materials about the specific memory issues you’re interested in are excellent, but actually attending a class in person or even online will help you form bonds with others who are navigating the same uncertainty that you are.
Connect with resources through the Alzheimer’s Association’s Virtual Library, or check with local retirement communities or memory care facilities in your area to ask about courses that are open to the public. These organizations often offer educational resources that may not necessarily be advertised. Some may even be completely free to attend.
Here in Lancaster County, many of our independent Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Life Plan Communities offer personal care with memory support services for patients, as well as compassionate advice, support, and help for caregivers.
Along with education resources, there are likely many regularly-meeting support groups in your local area. These can be for patients, but more often, these are for caregivers and loved ones. Check with local hospitals or the retirement communities closest to where you live. These facilities will be your best bet for finding programs that are worthwhile and may also give you direct access to professionals in the field for advice. Some community/senior centers and churches or other religious organizations may also offer support groups, but these will likely be more peer-to-peer instead of professionally led.
Home care services
A newer feature offered by many retirement communities and private businesses that provide in-home nursing services is memory support at home. These services vary widely in cost and structure, but they all seek to accomplish the goal of helping those with memory loss and dementia remain safely in their own homes for as long as possible. If your loved one does not wish to move onto a retirement community campus, there are now other options.
Home care services are usually quite flexible and can generally be scheduled on an as-needed basis. Caregivers can call on these services to receive respite from their regular care duties, or if budgets allow, they can have home care nurses and aides by their side around the clock. These services are also lifesaving for those who do not have dedicated caregivers or family and friends able to help.
Retirement community-based services
It’s true that retirement communities have long offered memory support and care services within their facilities. In many ways, this care resource is still the best, though it may be out of reach for some based on finances.
As mentioned previously, many of our local, independent retirement communities here in the Lancaster area offer these services. Some even have dedicated memory support centers where groups of memory care patients live together in a home-like atmosphere that features design and amenities optimized specifically for memory support.
As you consider your options for either retirement community-based memory support or a more DIY approach that incorporates family-based and/or professional home care, we want to invite you to a special event on October 20th here in the Lancaster County region. Our Explore Retirement Living Open House showcases all of the campus-based and home care resources that our local independent retirement communities have to offer as they open their doors to visitors. Bring your questions about memory support services and care to the communities that most appeal to you, and your hosts will be happy to help.