Does Someone You Love
Within 5 years an estimated 937,000 Canadians will live with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, as many as seventy-four per cent of us know someone with dementia. Not only is it hard for the person living with this disease, it is also hard for their family and friends as they journey together. Families often grapple with “when is it time?” and “we want them to stay at home as long as possible”. With the progression of this disease, the time will come when a decision needs to be made about where to live. That decision comes with a number of questions regarding security, care, emotional and physical health and recreational activities. Signs of advancing dementia will vary for every person, but there are four key traits to watch for that may indicate it’s time to think about making a move.
1. Personal care: Dementia can affect a person’s sense of self, which often results in visible symptoms such as neglected appearance, or a need for prompting of everyday tasks like bathing and grooming.
2. Household maintenance: People living with dementia often find it hard to complete daily tasks, and looking around your loved one’s home can be revealing. An empty refrigerator (or one filled with expired food), mixed up medications, or a scorched pot in the garbage can all reveal that your family member is experiencing difficulty with day-to-day life.
3. Social engagement: When friends and family get together you may notice signs of dementia not otherwise evident. Dementia affects how people express themselves and understand what is being communicated to them. Your loved one may be withdrawn and not engaging with others or could be deflecting questions about recent events. It is then important to ask yourself if they are having trouble remembering the last few days or if they are having difficulty finding the right words to communicate.
4. Spousal protection: When a spouse notices that their partner is having trouble with memory or communication, it is not uncommon for them to attempt to cover up the difficulties by compensating for the dementia. You may notice your father is answering questions for your mother, or that one parent looks to the other for a cue before answering a question.
There are two indicators that a change must happen quickly:
- If the person with dementia wanders out of their home and is safely returned home. It is a gift that they are safe but a sure sign that it can happen again.
- The primary caregiver’s health and wellness is changing or declining which changes the whole dynamic of what care is needed.
Too often families work hard to keep a loved one at home as long as possible until the point of an emergency, then everything needs to move quickly. Some research will need to be done such as contacting the South West Local Health Integration Network for an assessment. Next steps could include looking at in-home care services or deciding on a long term care home or a private retirement home.
These questions and challenges met Cathy Chapin when her dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Together with her husband Ross, they tried to find a peaceful, person-centred place for her dad to live with his wife of 60 years. In the end Cathy’s parents lived apart until he died two years later. “We realized the care Dad needed wasn’t available. We wanted to help other families avoid the pain we endured and decided to build a specialized home ourselves”, says Cathy.
Highview is a purpose-built, secure residence that provides specialized care for people with Alzheimer ’s disease and related dementia. Every resident has a private bedroom and en suite bathroom. The goal of care is to create a home-like setting where persons with dementia feel loved and safe, where their needs are met, and where they can engage in meaningful activities.
“I am thrilled that there will be a top quality care option available in our area, for people with dementia” says Michelle Martin, Executive Director, Alzheimer Society of Waterloo Wellington. “Highview offers personalized care designed for each individual’s needs and lifestyles, in an at-home setting”. As much as Highview Residences is a nurturing homelike setting, security is always a priority. The buildings have been designed to keep residents safe, with staff present at all times. Since opening in London over fifteen years ago, Highview Residences has provided exceptional, loving care to many people.“With the Kitchener-Waterloo home open and now expanding, this tradition will continue and we look forward to serving the families, caregivers and residents alike”, says Joy Birch, Chief Operating Officer.