Woman comforting older man
Deciding when your loved one should go to a nursing home can be a difficult decision.

It Helps to Set up a Plan

The trials and tribulations of Alzheimer’s disease seem endless. The person with the condition faces many struggles, but their family and friends endure another level of hardships brought on by the insidious disease.

Testing, medication changes and decreased functioning over time are commonplace with Alzheimer’s. Another universal concern is patient care.

As the condition progresses, symptoms grow and intensify. At its worst, Alzheimer’s threatens the safety of the person with the condition as well as their loved ones, so exploring options for added care is necessary.

Nursing homes and care facilities are available to provide a safe, caring environment for people with Alzheimer’s. However there are some questions that need to be considered, such as:

  • When should they go?
  • Can’t they take care of themselves?
  • How bad do symptoms have to be?
  • Shouldn’t I find a way to care for them?
  • How do they get there?

These questions can be overwhelming and confusing. Do you want to find the best time to employ Alzheimer's care for your loved one? Here’s how:

Understand the Condition’s Symptoms and Stages

You first have to do your research on the condition itself. Alzheimer’s is a progressively debilitating diagnosis that changes the brain and abilities of the individual.

Specific treatments may slow or delay the advancement of Alzheimer’s, but eventually it will become more problematic and more detrimental. Many people die between four and eight years after the initial diagnosis, but the condition can last as long as 20 years.

With time, the condition’s symptoms develop. In the early stage, someone may experience issues like:

  • Trouble finding the right word or a name
  • Forgetting new information
  • Losing to misplacing important items

Symptoms intensify in the middle stage of the condition with problems like:

  • Forgetting details about their own life
  • Seeming moodier or withdrawn in social situations
  • Trouble getting dressed for the day
  • Sleep changes including sleeping during the day
  • Personality changes including being suspicious of others

At the final stage of Alzheimer’s, symptoms are quite severe and include:

  • Trouble communicating with others
  • Inability to understand where they are and what they are doing
  • Problems walking, sitting and eating
  • Increased susceptibility to infections
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Establish the Expectation

Now that you know what you to expect, you can better plan how you would like to proceed with the care for your loved one. For most people with Alzheimer’s, it is not a question of IF they will need additional attention, it is a question of WHEN they will need it.

To figure out the when, you have to take an honest and realistic inventory of your resources. Consider factors like:

  • Your free time. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s may seem simple when symptoms are low, but it will be more time-consuming as symptoms progress.
  • Your other responsibilities. If you have work, children to care for, or other community commitments, they will affect your ability to care for others.
  • Your team. Since you cannot constantly be there to care for your loved one, you must rally a team of supports that can assist in your mission.
  • Your own health and well-being. How are you doing? Having your personal medical or mental health issues means you may not be the best option to care for your loved one.
  • Issues of safety and risk. Is your loved one's behavior safe at home, or are their behaviors becoming more unpredictable and dangerous?
  • Financial status. Having the money to afford in-home care, security systems and other safeguards will impact the decision to utilize extra care.

Based on your inventory, you can arrive at a rational conclusion about when care will be needed. The best plan is to establish a level of symptoms that you and your team are willing to manage before making the decision to move in another direction.

Too often, people make statements like, “We’ll just see how things go” or “We’ll do it as long as we can,” but this lack of planning could be damaging to you, your team and your loved one. As time goes on and the illness progresses, people are more likely to make subjective decisions based on their current emotions, rather than basing them on reality.

Finding the Right Time

The truth is that there is never a “right” time to place your loved one in a nursing home to care for their Alzheimer’s disease. Whenever you make the decision, it is challenging, complex, uncomfortable, and full of doubt and regret.

This is why you must establish the symptoms that warrant additional care before they present. Find a way to formally document the agreed upon terms and conditions for the change to occur.

Most people would say the early stage is too early and the late stage is too late for additional care, so determining which middle stage symptoms need to present before care is increased is crucial. As long as you and your team are comfortable with this decision and your loved one is safe, any decision can be appropriate.

Remember, there is no right time. But by planning, preparing and maintaining realistic expectations for yourself and others, you might just find the “best” time for additional care.