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Your loved one has Dementia: When is it Time for a Caregiver?

Hello!  My name is Heather Schanou.  Born and raised in Nebraska, I’m the Sales & Marketing Director at AdvanceCare Health Services.  It is my passion to creatively and energetically support people.  My journey of recognizing those in need began when my Grandmother exhibited signs of dementia. It marked my first genuine encounter with witnessing someone’s struggle and the sense of helplessness that accompanied it.

This article will be one of three that I am writing about dementia.  The articles will cover three topics: when it’s time for a caregiver, how to care for someone with dementia, and the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s.  The articles will touch on the stages of dementia and its impact on everyone involved.

First, let’s define what dementia is: a complex and challenging condition affecting millions of people worldwide, including their families and caregivers. It refers to symptoms associated with cognitive decline, affecting memory, thinking, reasoning, and daily functioning.  One common question arises: When does a person with dementia need a caregiver?

Dementia is not a static condition; it progresses over time, leading to various functional changes. To determine when a person with dementia requires a caregiver, it’s essential to consider the different stages. While the experience can vary widely among other people, there are general guidelines to help you identify when caregiving becomes necessary.

Early Stage

In the early stage of dementia, people may exhibit subtle signs of decline. They might have trouble with memory, such as forgetting names or misplacing items. These changes are often attributed to normal aging; however, this stage is an excellent time to start planning for future caregiving needs.  When my Grandmother began forgetting things and calling us by the wrong names, we brushed it off, assuming she was getting older or under stress.

Mild Cognitive Decline

As dementia progresses, the mild cognitive decline stage becomes more noticeable. Memory problems become more pronounced. The person may struggle with decision-making and performing specific tasks. At this point, they may benefit from occasional assistance.  Since my Grandfather was with my Grandmother 24/7, the rest of us weren’t around to see the daily progression of her dementia.  Although I can never be sure, I suspect my Grandfather covered for her quite a bit.

Moderate Cognitive Decline

Daily tasks such as dressing, bathing, and meal preparation become challenging in the moderate cognitive decline stage. Behavioral changes such as restlessness, irritability, and verbal aggression may also emerge.  These mood changes require more substantial support.

Severe Cognitive Decline

The severe cognitive decline stage represents a significant turning point. People often require constant assistance with activities of daily living. Communication difficulties and disorientation become an everyday occurrence. Caregivers play a vital role in ensuring safety.  In the small town where my Grandparents lived, hiring a caregiver was not an option. As Grandma’s dementia got to the point where my Grandpa could not assist her, he had to arrange for my Grandmother to live in a nursing home.

End-Stage Dementia

In the end stage of dementia, individuals experience very severe cognitive decline. They may be bedridden, non-verbal, and entirely dependent on caregivers for all their needs, including feeding and personal hygiene.

Recognizing when a person with dementia needs assistance is essential, but planning and preparing for caregiving responsibilities should begin well before the late stages of the condition. Early planning allows families to create a caregiving strategy that aligns with their loved one’s needs and preferences.  In the nursing home, my Grandmother was very confused and repeatedly stated that she wanted to go home.  Early planning and strategizing might have prevented some of her irritability and confusion.

AdvanceCare’s caregivers undergo comprehensive training to learn the proper techniques to care for those struggling with dementia.  This includes education, effective communication skills, medication management, and activities.  Call AdvanceCare to see how we can help!  Helping your loved one remain home lessens the stress of relocating to a new environment.  For more information, call 629-800-9614.

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