Planning for Dementia Care

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Education about dementia and planning are most important

Alzheimer’s Disease (and other types of dementia) is now said to be one of the biggest health care crisis we are facing.  As ‘baby-boomers’ age and our population continues to live longer, care and supervision of those with a cognitive impairment is predicted to overwhelm our health care system and budget.  The family who finds themselves facing this disease can do two things to help relieve the stress so often experienced through the caregiving years –  EDUCATE yourselves on the resources for care and the progression of the disease, and PLAN AHEAD.

Resources for Assessment of Dementia

First, make sure you have the very best guidance and information by a thorough and professional assessment of any cognitive impairment.  In Northwest Arkansas we are so fortunate to have TWO excellent geriatric health care clinics that offer a professional screening for dementia. Your primary care physician can make a referral to one of these Memory Centers for testing and those results can be provided to your physician, or you can call one of the clinics directly to make an appointment.

The Pat Walker Senior Health Center – 12 E. Appleby Road, Fayetteville, Ar.  72703  Clinic Phone:  479-463-4444 –  The Pat Walker Center is a part of the Washington Regional campus, providing fellowship trained geriatricians,  a Memory Center offering testing and guidance in dementia care, a staff of geriatric specialists.

The Schmieding Center for Senior Health and Education  – 2422 N. Thompson, Springdale, Ar.  Clinic:  479-750-6566; Education & Library:  479-751-3043.  This geriatric care clinic also offers fellowship trained geriatricians and a staff of geriatric care experts. The Schmieding Center for Education offers caregiver training classes specific to dementia care.

Learn all you Can!

The staff at these two clinics can make recommendations on books to read that will provide information on the changes to expect with the progression of the disease.  The classic book to read and one of the most basic is still The 36-Hour Day:  A Family Guide to Caring for Persons with Alzheimer’s Disease, Related Dementing Illnesses, and Memory Loss in Later Life, by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins.  Published first in 1981, this book still has the most basic and comprehensive information to help start the learning process.  Remember that there are ‘types’ of dementia, not only a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease is possible, so learn about cognitive impairment and if you are informed of a specific type of cognitive impairment, learn all you can about the progression of that disease.

Also contact your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter to learn about their services.  They have information about all cognitive impairment and resources for the individual and the caregiver.  The Alzheimer’s Association also sponsors dementia caregiver support groups which are very helpful both for support and education about the disease. (You will also find a full list of support groups on this web site Support Groups for Caregivers and Adults with Disabilities)

Over the years that this disease progresses, the individual and family will find that many resources will be needed.  Respite from supervision and care is helpful for the husband or wife caring for a spouse with dementia.  In the early years, visits to senior centers and use of the services of an adult day care center can give the caregiver spouse some time for errands or rest.   Professional caregivers for the home are available through private agencies and through the list of trained caregivers provided by the Schmieding Center.  The Area Agency on Aging is available to help with those with limited incomes who might qualify for Medicaid home care services.  Call 1-800-432-9721 for the AAA Care Coordinator to make a visit to your home to tell you about planning for future care and Medicaid services.

Facility dementia care is offered in NW AR in both assisted living and skilled nursing care.  See the post on this web site under Dementia/Alzheimer’s Care to learn about those facilities and how to choose a facility for care.

Over the years that I have worked with individuals who have dementia and their families, I have seen over and over the stress created by the ongoing needs for care and supervision.  This is why I urge anyone faced with any diagnosis of cognitive impairment to take action to make the years of care as stress-free as possible.  Learn all you can about the diagnosis, learn all you can about all the resources, and then USE that information to help you through what can be a very difficult time if you do not get the help that you need.