When is it Time?
How Do I Know When It’s Time for Memory Care?
This is one of the questions we hear most from families inquiring about placement. Hopefully, this list will at least give you a general idea of when it’s time for placement or close to it. We’ve tried to make it more specific than other resources you may find, most of it based on actual cases we have worked with over the years. An advantage these cases provide is hindsight; seeing the whole picture of when actions were taken, when they weren’t, and what end results were. Warning: this list is blunt.
- Poor judgement driving. This warning sign may not mean placement is needed right away, but you MUST find a way to get keys away from the person affected by dementia or very bad things can happen. You can’t worry about if they become upset; people are in danger. You can seek the help of your doctor or other health care professional to help you through this.
- Caregiver burnout and exhaustion. If you as a caregiver become burned out and exhausted, it would be very wise to seek assistance of some sort. Be it respite care, in-home care, or placement in an appropriate setting (preferably secure), there needs to be assistance for you of some kind. If you don’t get help, you may: end up ill, you could end up resenting your loved one and become angry, or your loved one could put themselves (and possibly you) in danger when you finally fall into a sleep too deep to be aware of what’s going on in the house.
- A stove or microwave fire has occurred. Either fool-proof action has to be taken to safe guard against this happening again or the obvious could occur.
- Physical aggression toward you or others starts happening. If you are hit, grabbed, pushed, kicked, etc., by your loved one, you need to talk to a doctor right away. Remember, this is probably because of the progression of disease in the brain, but it doesn’t change the fact you could be hurt. Also, be sure guns or any other form of potential “weapon” is/are removed from the house or locked up out of sight. This may include knives, baseball bats, screwdrivers and other tools, etc. As the disease progresses, your loved one may not recognize you at your current age. You may look like a stranger/intruder to them.
- Your loved one is putting themselves in danger, for example, wandering out of the house and getting lost at any time of day. There may come a time when the person gets up at night to use the bathroom, forgets which door is which, and wanders outside. Since they are in the moment and don’t feel they’ve found what they’re looking for, they just keep going. Their brain may not be processing how hot or cold it is as they go out the door. They can walk onto roads/highways, fall (making it even more difficult to find them) and sustain an injury, go into woods or bodies of water, cause car accidents, and more.
- Another self-injurious behavior is misuse of medication. They may take too much or too little; if they are to stay at home, someone will have to be in charge of managing their medication and be sure a system is in place to keep them safe.
- If you notice personal hygiene is suffering, it may be time for some help. The person affected by memory loss may tell you they “just showered”, though it’s obvious they haven’t. Hair may be uncombed for days, men may not be shaving, you may notice body odor, or incontinence without a change of clothing. Hygiene itself isn’t as big of a need for placement as some other clues, but it’s another piece of the puzzling question, “When is it time for placement?”
- There may be a noticeable weight loss. Especially if the person is living alone, they can forget to eat and may not notice hunger or thirst. They may be dehydrated, which can bring on its own set of health issues. Check the refrigerator; is there moldy food or soured milk? When they do eat, they may be using spoiled food and not realizing it. Malnourishment or food poisoning can become a concern.
- Lawn care may suffer. If people with memory loss are living alone, neighbors and families may see grass that isn’t being mowed, weeds are plentiful, and a generally unkempt look to the lawn.
- There may be piles of unopened mail or just about anything else you can think of; boxes of tissues, an unusual number of containers of a certain food they like, cough drops, you name it.
- Especially for people living alone, not remembering how to use a phone is a sign of needing placement. If there would be an emergency, ask yourself, “Would this person know how to call for help?”
- Financially, if you are able to see bank accounts, watch for any sign of potential scammers or other financial exploitation. “Charities” that aren’t valid or “shady” sweepstakes tend to prey on the elderly because they sense their vulnerability.
- Frequent falling means it’s time for a doctor’s visit. It can be a symptom of so many things; dehydration/electrolyte imbalance, infection, loss of balance/dizziness (also referred to as vertigo), taking medications improperly, mini-strokes (also called TIAs, or transient ischemic attacks), blood vessel or heart issues, a depth perception problem, abnormal blood pressure issues, diabetic neuropathy, clutter in the house, knee or spine degeneration, vision problems, and the list goes on and on.
- Finally, if the person has a pet/pets, be sure they are being properly cared for. They can be affected by an owner having memory loss/dementia too. If a person has always taken proper care of a pet and doesn’t seem to be any more, both the person and the pet may benefit from some sort of intervention.
Hopefully this list of signs has helped you know if it’s time to seek help. Please keep in mind these are general indications of a need to talk to a health care professional. Each person comes with an individual set of symptoms and circumstances. If you would like a free assessment and/or consultation by an RN experienced in dementia, please contact Prairie Senior Cottages. Memory care is our specialty.