A long-term memory care facility can be the best option to provide a safe and structured environment that reduces stress for patients struggling with dementia. It also offers various memory-enhancing activities to help slow the progress of symptoms
But when should dementia patients go into care? This can be a challenging decision. Understanding the different stages of dementia, signs that healthcare professionals look for, and several tests to assess the acuity of the individual’s condition can help guide your decision.
Different Types and Stages of Dementia
Dementia is a symptom caused by various brain conditions, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's disease. A dementia patient may also have received a vascular dementia diagnosis or a Lewy bodies dementia diagnosis.
While these diseases have various causes and symptoms, they share some common characteristics.
During the first stages of dementia, patients can live a relatively normal life. However, they may experience memory lapses, become less organized or struggle in social settings. Patients at the beginning stages of dementia can often stay in their own homes.
As the disease progresses, patients develop observable symptoms, such as confusion, getting lost, behavioral or personality changes, sleep issues, and in some cases, loss of bladder or bowel control. This is often time to consider memory care.
In the last stages of dementia, patients can't function and lose control of their movement. They need round-the-clock care and supervision since they can't communicate and are prone to infections. The type and amount of care these patients require often go beyond what a caregiver can provide at home.
When Should Someone with Dementia Go into a Care Home?
Deciding to place a loved one in a long-term care facility isn't easy. But it's often the best option if the patient can't receive the care they need at home. Here are the signs that healthcare professionals look for to determine when dementia patients should go into care:
Daily Living Activities
It's time to consider memory care when a patient struggles with personal hygiene and daily living activities such as dressing, bathing and toileting. They may have mobility issues, get lost on familiar routes, forget to eat or drink and have trouble with medication management.
Memory care often becomes necessary when confusion and disorientation threaten the patient's physical safety. Some signs include leaving burners or appliances on, having unexplained cuts and bruises, wandering off and having recent emergency room visits.
Dementia patients may suffer from poor nutrition and weight loss because they often forget to eat. Many also have trouble following special diets to support existing health conditions. Deterioration in physical health is a telltale sign that additional care is needed.
It's time to consider memory care when a patient starts having short-term recall, concentration and spatial awareness issues. They may also struggle with personality changes, moodiness, delusions, suspicion and isolation.
As a patient progresses from the beginning stages of dementia to more advanced ones, the burden on the caregiver increases significantly. It's time to consider memory care if the caregiver shows signs of stress, fatigue and deteriorating health.
How to Evaluate When Someone with Dementia Should Go into a Care Home
Doctors often ask these questions to determine if a dementia patient should go into care:
- Have friends or families made comments about changing behaviors?
- Is the patient showing signs of withdrawal, isolation or nervousness?
- Does the patient exhibit verbally or physically aggressive behaviors?
- Can the patient take care of their hygiene needs (e.g., toileting, bathing, etc.)?
- Does the patient wander or get lost?
- Is the living condition at home safe? Are there trip hazards, fall risks, kitchen appliances, guns or household chemicals that can cause injuries?
- Can the patient manage their medications and get proper nutrition?
- Is the caregiver feeling stressed, burnout or experiencing health issues?
Professional Assessments for Dementia Patients
Whether a patient is in the first stages of dementia or the last stages of dementia, medical professionals can use various tests to help determine the patient's mental status and the level of care they need.
Physicians will test reflexes, coordination, muscle tone and strength, eye movement, speech and sensation. They may use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) to look for signs of stroke, Parkinson's disease, brain tumors, Alzheimer's disease, fluid buildup in the brain and other conditions that could impair memory.
Mental Cognitive Status Tests
The Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) and the Mini-Cog test are two commonly used assessments to evaluate a patient's executive functions, short- and long-term memory, judgment, attention span and language skills. For example, physicians may ask patients to remember a list of words, follow instructions and perform simple calculations.
Doctors may use computerized cognitive testing devices cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to evaluate a patient's thinking, learning and memory capabilities. These include the Cantab Mobile, CognICA, Cognigram, Cognivue, Cognision and Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics (ANAM) devices.
Your healthcare provider may conduct a depression and mood assessment to detect mood disorders that could cause memory problems. They may also perform blood tests to rule out issues with the liver, kidney, thyroid, and vitamin B12 and folate levels, which can cause symptoms similar to those of dementia.
How To Find Memory Care Near Me
Dementia patients often require long-term memory care. It's important to select a reputable facility that offers a welcoming environment with state-of-the-art safety features that can deliver a comforting experience for both residents and their loved ones.
The care provider should offer a structured schedule and innovative programming to help patients delay further cognitive decline while addressing their emotional and behavioral needs. It should also provide family support and educational programs to help caregivers navigate this critical transition.