Families—not institutions—provide the majority of care to chronically ill and disabled persons. These families know the enormity of the burden in caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases, stroke, traumatic brain injury, or other long-term conditions. They also know the challenges in locating appropriate advice, services, and respite.
Most family caregivers reach a point when they realize they need help at home. Tell-tale signs include recognizing that your loved one requires constant supervision and/or assistance with everyday activities, such as bathing and dressing. Caregivers also find that certain housekeeping routines and regular errands are accomplished with great difficulty or are left undone. It may become apparent that in order to take care of any business outside the home, more than one caregiver is required.
The diagnosis of a dementing illness marks a new stage in your life and your family’s life. Challenging decisions and important choices arise, along with uncertainty and often confusion, anxiety or fear. Some decisions might need to be made right away. Others lie ahead. The best future for you and your family depends on understanding what is most important to each of you. Recognizing and communicating your personal values about everyday care enables you and your family to make the right choices, one by one, as the situation changes.
When an individual is diagnosed with dementia, one of the first concerns that families and caregivers face is whether or not that person should drive. A diagnosis of dementia may not mean that a person can no longer drive safely. In the early stages of dementia, some—though not all—individuals may still possess skills necessary for safe driving. Most dementia, however, is progressive, meaning that symptoms such as memory loss, visual-spatial disorientation, and decreased cognitive function will worsen over time.
Could the sadness, loneliness or anger you feel today be a warning sign of depression? It’s possible. It is not unusual for caregivers to develop mild or more serious depression as a result of the constant demands they face in providing care.
More than ever before, caregiving is recognized as a key element of everyday life for millions of families throughout the United States. As our population ages, more families are providing care for an older adult at home, and an increasing number of people will need such care in the future. Current demographic and healthcare trends make this issue even more significant:
My mother was 81 and living alone. She began to fall frequently, and had other health issues. My husband suggested that she move in with us so she would not be alone, and someone would always be there if she fell—we were worried about the falls.