For Canadians dealing with any kind of dementia diagnosis, the road ahead is a tough one, whether you are planning for Alzheimer's care or care for any other dementia. For all of the difficulties you will face in the coming months and years, planning ahead will help you gain a little bit of control over the situation and manage the stress of caregiving. You can take control by writing things down, understanding stages coming at you, and the steps you will have to take.
Here is our overview of a care plan for dementia, as a basic yet essential guide for caregivers. We look at different stages of decline and offer an overview of resources that can help you provide the best care, at every step of the way. Our intention is to help you plan and prepare as fully as possible for the time ahead.
Thankfully, there are many different resources that can help caregivers on this journey. We urge you to consult this guide, and consult with as many other authorities as you need to, as you prepare for the time ahead. Below, we look at steps you will take, with links to further help elsewhere on this site or elsewhere online.
Every family is different, with a different dynamic. Begin by carefully, wisely discussing how you are going to care for the loved one with dementia: who is going to be in charge, and who is responsible for individual tasks. In the great majority of cases, that work falls on one person. If that's you, here is what you need to do during early stages of Alzheimer's or dementia:
Questions you will need to answer early:
There are a variety of services you need to investigate as soon as possible. All of these services can help spell off your personal caregiving to help you keep a balance.
Respite care should be taken advantage of as soon as you need it. This is short term help for caregivers, supported by provincial government funding in provinces across Canada. You may have heard of this only as a short term stay in a retirement home but respite care is also provided by home care providers. Taking a break or holiday from caregiving is an important means of staying physically and mentally healthy, so you can offer the best care. Look at respite care early, to fit this component into your long range dementia care plan.
Adult day care programs are available in communities across Canada, and like respite care, these are an important aide to caregivers. Of course, these kinds of programs and related services (senior centers, etc.) can help dementia patients through social activities, brain exercises and time out of the home. But they also allow caregivers time off. Learn about these programs and find out their availability near you. These should be a critical part of your family's senile dementia care plan.
Home care is available under the auspices of provincial health care services in many cases (such as the LHIN in Ontario) but you may be limited by waiting lists. Private home care services can augment other care you provide, creating your own respite program. There are many other benefits to using these services. Investigate home care near you, find out costs and learn all you can.
There are many benefits to involving yourself with, and observing professional caregivers. You will learn different approaches to care, in context, and learn from the example of others. Many professional caregivers are trained in special techniques. Learning about these will be valuable to you as you move forward. For example, you will see caregiving techniques at work, such as validation therapy, and gentle persuasion.
Daily routines planned
As the dementia progresses, you and your loved one will benefit from small daily routines. For example, small cues that mark the day help people with progressive dementia. One example of these daily cues is opening the curtains at a set time every morning. Another cue might be turning on music. Similarly, cues for end of the day, such as shutting things off or turning off lights are a good way of keeping your loved one in sync, even as short term memory deteriorates.
How to plan activities
One caregiving tactic to help your loved one is to take part in simple daily activities. Start with things your loved one is interested in, perhaps hiking, dancing, or things that involve working with hands (e.g. woodworking, sculpting, etc.) Focus on activities that are quiet, that involve interaction and conversation, and that he or she is familiar with. As you engage in these on a regular basis, he or she will benefit from the routine, and this can be very therapeutic. Other things to bear in mind are the need for reduced lighting, and a tempered environment.
As time goes on, you will need to upscale care given. Respite care will be increasingly important to your care planning, as will home care services, senior centers, adult day care programs and any other resources outside the home.
Some families who can afford it will choose to get their loved one into assisted living. Many assisted living care homes are prepared to help those in middle stages of progressive dementia. Care staff here is available 24 hours a day, and these facilities will be secured, in an environment where everyone is experienced with various stages of dementia. Find out more about what is offered in typical assisted living settings.
As your loved one's dementia progresses, memory care facilities are also suitable. To plan ahead strategically, you may want to arrange a move into a retirement home that also offers memory care help and is prepared for the later stages and contingencies of dementia. See your best long range dementia care plan below.
Know what's coming. As they say, plan for the worst, but hope for the best. As you circulate in care homes and seniors' programs, observe those in later stages of dementia and prepare yourself to deal with your loved one in those later stages; progressive deterioration is inevitable.
Knowing your eventual need for long term care (LTC), investigate local options, as early as you can. Many provinces have waiting lists for long term care, and you can't get on a waiting list until a doctor is certain your loved one needs LTC. In the province of Ontario (as of 2017) wait times for long term beds range from approximately 75 days to over three years, depending on the facility and the region.
In long term care homes listed on Comfort Life, care offered is exceptional and state-of-the-industry. Not all long term care homes recommended to you by government services (or that are near you) will be to your liking. This is why you need to check out your options ahead of time and plan the best way of going through this process. The following looks at an ideal path to take.
The best long range dementia care plan: a holistic view
Here is a plan for navigating and thinking ahead toward late-dementia choices, from experts in the care industry. If you think ahead to the ultimate outcome of dementia (dreadful, yes, but also inevitable), you can plan care choices accordingly. You will not likely get into the LTC home you want, so have a backup plan.
We suggest that you find exceptional private memory care facilities near you, where your loved one has the greatest guarantee of receiving excellent care. Learn ahead of time what the cost will be, and budget accordingly. There will be a number of options, so choose one that best matches your budget and needs.
Ideally, you want your loved one to be in the same community (one they like or accept) for the duration. Being in a stable environment with which they become familiar will alleviate confusion and other effects related to dementia. The various kinds of care you will need should ideally be available in one situation:
This holistically minded plan applies to every form of senile dementia, including Alzheimer's, vascular dementia (although this can be much slower), Parkinson's, and all others.
We wish you the best possible outcome as you venture forward in making challenging decisions in the days, months and years ahead.
Sources and further resources
alzlive.com: a Toronto-based website full of resources for caregivers of Alzheimer's patients
alzheimer.ca: offers broad information about Alzhimer's and related dementias, along with lists to local support groups and more.
healthcareathome.ca's long term care wait list: links to updated wait times for long term care beds in Ontario.