Though my 98 1/2 year-old father-in-law is in Assisted Living family members are very involved in his care. We are trying to give Dad the best life possible. Last week we invited him to lunch. When we picked Dad up he got into the car slowly and declared, “The world is a hard place today. " Dad's world is not only hard, it is shrinking by the hour.
Are you caring for a loved one with dementia? If your loved one lives with you, is in Assisted Living, or a nursing home, there are things you can do to help professional caregivers care for him or her.
1. ASK FOR A MEDICATION REVIEW. People with dementia often have physical problems such as glaucoma and diabetes. The physician may prescribe additional medication for your loved one. Dosages may also change. Medications should be reviewed on a regular basis to make sure they are current and compatible.
2. RATE ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIVING. Many Assisted Living facilities/nursing homes use the Lawton Instrumental Activities of Daily Living Scale, detailed in the autumn 1969 issue of “The Gerontologist. " The scale rates phone use, shopping, fixing meals, housekeeping, laundry skills, transportation, taking medicine, and handling finances. Download the scale from the Internet and rate your loved one to get a clearer picture of his or her dementia.
3. REQUEST ADDITIONAL SERVICES. At the end of her life my mother developed urinary incontinence. Despite regular updates on her care, nobody told me they bathed my mother only once a week. No wonder she smelled. I ordered extra baths for my mother.
4. INCREASE PROTECTION. My father-in-law ate lunch once and tried to eat it again, so the Assisted Living staff monitors his meal times carefully. If we have invited Dad to lunch or dinner we call the desk and tell them when we are picking Dad up. Dad is in the final stage of dementia and starting to forget family members. Assisted Living staff and family members are watching him closely and will determine when the next level of care is needed.
5. KEEP REMINDING YOUR LOVED ONE. We call Dad to remind him of appointments and also tape written reminders to his desk lamp. Since Dad usually loses these notes the four of us who are involved in his care give him many verbal reminders. We also give Dad picture reminders, such as the photo of the flowers that were wired to a loved one on his behalf.
There is little we can do for Dad at this time life “when the world is a hard place. " But the things we can do are important. We can listen to his stories (there are fewer of them), keep him safe, and surround him with a loving family. These actions are not a burden, they are a privilege and an example for Dad's grandchildren and great grandchildren. God bless us each and every one.
Copyright 2006 by Harriet Hodgson
Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance nonfiction writer for 28 years. She is a member of the Association of Heatlth Care Journlaists and the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, " written with Lois Krahn, MD is available from http://www.amazon.com A five-star review of the book is posted on Amazon. Another review is posted on the American Hospice Foundation Website under the “School Corner" heading.