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The dementia care plan: helping your family today and long-term

by Suzanne Faith, RN Psych

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating reality for so many families. There is currently no cure, and the stress that comes with full-time caregiving can be staggering.

Family caregivers often wonder about things like:

    • What will I do if something happens to me?
    • How much does home care cost?
    • What if I don’t have any money?
    • How can I keep my family member safe?
    • What about driving issues?

Many families don’t consider the answers to these questions until the disease has created significant behavioral problems and personal hygiene issues. It’s a harsh reality for caregivers to realize that, had they initiated the care planning process sooner, more options for care might be available to them.

What is a dementia care plan?

If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, it’s important to have in place what is known as a care plan.

A solid care plan—developed in partnership with a provider like Hope Dementia & Alzheimer’s Services—gets you ready for the future. It puts together the pieces of a complex puzzle and connects you with help and resources.

A care plan is adaptable, tailored to your family’s unique needs, and can change as the needs of you or your loved one change. It offers two important benefits:

  1. It helps the person with dementia stay at home for as long as possible.
  2. It helps the caregiver by relieving stress and supporting good health.

One in 3 people caring for someone with Alzheimer’s suffers from depression, and two-thirds of caregivers rate their emotional stress as high to very high.

How can a care plan help me?

At Hope Dementia & Alzheimer’s Services, the first step in developing a care plan is for you to meet with one of our staff members for an initial interview and assessment. During this meeting, we will listen to your story and work with you to develop a unique care plan that is right for your situation.

The typical components of a care plan are below:

Identify sources of support.

Having someone to lean on—a spouse, adult child, other family members or friends—is critical to the overall plan of care.

Refer you to an elder law attorney.

If you wait too long to draft two important legal documents—the health care proxy and durable power of attorney—your loved one may no longer be competent to sign them. That can lead to costly expenses tied to securing guardianship.

Examine your current insurance policies.

You should understand the benefits in those policies and when they can be used. For example, your family may be eligible for the Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension if your loved one is a veteran.

Organize an emergency home plan.

We suggest registering your loved one with the Silver Alert program, which activates a coordinated response by Massachusetts police if a person with a cognitive impairment should wander off and get lost.

It’s also a good idea for people with dementia to wear a Safe Return ID bracelet. You should wear one, too, in case you have an accident away from home, leaving your loved one home alone.

Learn about caregiver support groups and other resources.

It can be educational or comforting to speak with other family caregivers who are experiencing the same challenges. A support group provides this safe space for expressing yourself or listening.

In Massachusetts, Hope Dementia & Alzheimer’s Services offers traditional support groups for caregivers. We also have a special program for both caregivers and people with dementia. In separate settings that meet at the same time, you can participate in caregiver support while your loved one socializes and converses with others who have dementia. Find a dementia and Alzheimer’s support group in Massachusetts.

Other community resources may be useful for families, such as adult day health programs and Meals on Wheels. Your social worker can discuss your options.

Get a much-needed break.

You may qualify for a respite grant, which is available to any family that is caring for someone with dementia. These grants provide funding to bring caregiving assistance into your home, help your loved one start an adult-day program, or provide an overnight stay in a care facility. You can apply for these grants once per calendar year.

Take the first step

Asking for help is hard sometimes, but it could be the most important thing you do to be the best caregiver you can be. Talking to a licensed team member is a great place to start.

Suzanne Faith, RN Psych, is senior director of Hope Dementia & Alzheimer’s Services, part of the HopeHealth family of services.

Questions about starting a dementia care plan? Contact us at (508) 775-5656 or Info@HopeDementia.org.

Learn more about Hope Dementia & Alzheimer’s Services.

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