Did you make an unrealistic promise to your mom you would never put her in a care facility? Or perhaps you agreed to care for your dad regardless of how challenging his Alzheimer’s symptoms became. But then reality struck, and you realized you needed help to provide the dementia care they needed.
“This is an all too familiar scenario,” explained Lori Nisson, Family and Community Services director at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and Banner Sun Health Research Institute in Arizona. “It’s important to have these conversations with your loved one early, so you can be prepared for decisions you will need to make in the future, and they can share their preferences.”
Banner Health’s memory centers provide a free program to help you prepare for medical, legal and financial decisions along with how to pay for dementia care in the home, community and residential settings. You can attend Planning Ahead in person or watch the online version. The time to plan for this is early in the disease when your loved one can participate in the conversation.
4 things to address early in Alzheimer’s disease
Complete advanced directives
This includes medical power of attorney, mental health power of attorney and financial power of attorney. These documents give you the ability to make health care decisions and manage finances for your loved one when they are no longer able to do so. Each state has different forms for powers of attorney, so be sure to research the requirements in your area. And don’t forget to update your own powers of attorney. If your parent is your power of attorney, now is the time to make changes to your documents.
Ask your loved one what type of care they will want in the future
“We know at some point outside care will be needed because, as dementia progresses, the person’s cognition and ability to function declines,” explained Nisson. “When problems with gait, balance and daily activities rise, additional care will likely be needed either in-home or in a care facility. So, try not to make promises you can’t keep.”
Discuss costs and insurance coverage
Research the costs for in-home care, adult day programs and assisted living in your city. Ask your family member if they have long-term care insurance or veterans’ benefits and find out how to use them. You might also check out your state’s long-term care Medicaid service requirements in case you need them in the future.
Support for dementia caregivers
There are many places you can go to learn more about Alzheimer’s and related dementias. For example, Banner Alzheimer’s Institute lists options you can use to find resources near you to help prepare for these discussions and for caring for someone with dementia. You can also contact your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter or Area Agency on Aging. These organizations provide helplines, support, education and resources that can be very helpful to you and your family.
“These discussions can be difficult, so we tend to put them off,” concluded Nisson. “But it’s important to have them early, so your loved one can have a say in their future care. Remember, you are not alone. Reach out for local resources to help you manage dementia care for your family while balancing your own wellness.”