Visiting Nurse / Hospice Atlanta Blogs

Heading Home for the Holidays? Watch for aging loved ones’ memory issues.

As we flock to the homes of loved ones this holiday season, many of us will see our families for the first time in weeks or even months. A part of you must wonder how your elderly parent or family member looks compared to the last time you were together. Have they aged much? Do they act any differently? Perhaps one of your biggest fears is coming home and noticing a loved one has trouble remembering things, like turning off the stove.

Planning for Alzheimer’s Care

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia among older people. Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—and behavioral abilities, to such an extent that the loss interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Alzheimer’s is irreversible and progressive. Estimates vary, but experts suggest that as many as 5.1 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s.

Common Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease Include:

  • Short-term memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Confusion with person, place, time and event
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Poor or decreased judgment
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood and personality

The holidays are a perfect time to catch up on the health of family, and it can even be the perfect time to have the difficult conversation about including special care into a loved one’s life. As a family, smart decisions can be made about what is best for the health of our elderly family members. Looking for common signs of Alzheimer’s disease will help you determine if it is appropriate to have this conversation with your loved one. The conversation about bringing healthcare home is sometimes a difficult and emotional one. But we must remember these uncomfortable conversations are for the health and safety of our family members.

National Alliance for Caregiving suggests using these tips leading up to the conversation:

  • Do some research
  • Develop a few talking points
  • Share your reasoning for the conversation
  • Schedule a time to speak with your loved one uninterrupted
  • Outline goals
  • Gather important records or bring a list of information needed
  • Be open to all opinions, there is no right or wrong
  • Share your concerns about the future
  • Tailor the conversation to your loved one’s personality
  • Solicit advice and responses
  • Be ready to generate next steps for an actionable plan
  • Create a phone tree
  • Put yourself in their shoes
  • Most importantly, start the conversation

It is important to remember that some elderly people are hesitant to leave the home they’ve always known for a nursing facility. Fortunately, people are able to age in place, safely in their home with programs like our Alzheimer’s Respite Program, which allows patients to remain with loved ones in a familiar setting. Patients feel safe and maintain independence for as long as their cognitive level permits.

Our Alzheimer’s Respite Program provides quality respite care in the patient’s home with early interventions to prevent hospital admissions or nursing home placement. Our clinicians will help educate you about the disease, its progression and symptom management as well as help ease the stress for caregivers of Alzheimer’s Disease patients. Certified Nursing Assistants help ease caregiver stress by staying with your loved one while you take a break to run errands or see a movie.

Managing Alzheimer’s Disease can be very difficult, especially as the disease progresses. However, there are tips to help you and your loved one manage early onset symptoms:

  • Keep a book with them with important information, such as phone numbers, names, appointments, your address, and directions to your home.
  • Place sticky notes around the house as reminders and for instructions.
  • Label cupboards and drawers with words or pictures that describe their contents.
  • Place important phone numbers in large print next to the phone.
  • Ask a friend or family member to call and remind your loved one of important things that they need to do during the day, including eating meals, taking medications and keeping appointments.
  • Give your loved one a calendar to keep track of important dates and times.
  • Use photos of people your loved one sees often, labeled with their names.
  • Help your loved one keep track of phone messages by having them use an answering machine.

For the remaining questions you likely have about our Alzheimer’s Respite Program, and other ways we can bring healthcare to your loved one’s home, we invite you to call Sarah Wood, Manager for the Alzheimer’s Program at Visiting Nurse Health System | Hospice Atlanta at (404) 215-6950.