Visiting a Person With Alzheimer's and Choosing a Nursing Home
Visitors are important to people with Alzheimer's disease. They may not always remember who the visitors are, but just the human connection has value. Here are some ideas to share with someone who is planning to visit a person with Alzheimer's disease:
- Plan the visit at the time of the day when the person is at his or her best. Consider bringing along some kind of activity, such as something familiar to read or photo albums to look at, but be prepared to skip it if necessary.
- Be calm and quiet. Avoid using a loud tone of voice or talking to the person as if he or she were a child. Respect the person's personal space and don't get too close.
- Try to establish eye contact and call the person by name to get his or her attention. Remind the person who you are if he or she doesn't seem to recognize you.
- If the person is confused, don't argue. Respond to the feelings you hear being communicated, and distract the person to a different topic if necessary.
- If the person doesn't recognize you, is unkind, or responds angrily, remember not to take it personally. He or she is reacting out of confusion.
For many caregivers, there comes a point when they are no longer able to take care of their loved one at home. Choosing a residential care facility -- a nursing home or an assisted living facility -- is a big decision, and it can be hard to know where to start. Tips for caregivers include:
- It's helpful to gather information about services and options before the need actually arises. This gives you time to fully explore all the possibilities before making a decision.
- Determine what facilities are in your area. Doctors, friends and relatives, hospital social workers, and religious organizations may be able to help you identify specific facilities.
- Make a list of questions you would like to ask the staff. Think about what is important to you, such as activity programs, transportation, or special units for people with Alzheimer's disease.
- Contact the places that interest you and make an appointment to visit. Talk to the administration, nursing staff, and residents.
- Observe the way the facility runs and how residents are treated. You may want to drop by again unannounced to see if your impressions are the same.
- Find out what kinds of programs and services are offered for people with Alzheimer's disease and their families. Ask about staff training in dementia care and check to see what the policy is about family participation in planning patient care.
- Check on room availability, cost and method of payment, and participation in Medicare or Medicaid. You may want to place your name on a waiting list even if you are not ready to make an immediate decision about long-term care.
- Once you have made a decision, be sure you understand the terms of the contract and financial agreement. You may want to have a lawyer review the documents with you before signing.
- Moving is a big change for both the person with Alzheimer's disease and the caregiver. A social worker may be able to help you plan for and adjust to the move. It is important to have support during this difficult transition.