The following are a few suggestions given by seasoned at-home caregivers employed by Right at Home who work with people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. We hope their insights help you as you care for older people with memory loss. No one way fits all situations. Keep trying different methods
“Grace” is an 87-year-old woman who lost her husband of 55 years about 14 years ago. After his death, she moved into a beautiful one-level, two bedroom townhome and has lived there comfortably over the years. She loves the complex she lives in, enjoys sitting comfortably in her lawn chair in her garage, watching and waving as people go by. She does a good job of keeping up her home.
Grace has some pain in her back from arthritis and osteoporosis, some high blood pressure and glaucoma, but she generally has gotten along well on her own. After all, she is a stoic and independent Norwegian woman who still enjoys baking all of the unique Norwegian holiday treats like krumkake and sandbakkels. “Lefsa is a two-person job, though, and I can’t do that any longer,” she says.
Her three daughters worry about her living alone and wished to move her to an assisted living facility. Grace wasn’t opposed to that idea and was even preparing to move, until she found out how much it would cost her. Being a penny pincher her entire life, and because she loves her home so much, she decided she would rather stay there.
Grace’s daughter brought in Right at Home to help Grace around the home because that’s what her daughters felt Grace needed. Grace, however, expressed other needs. She was adamantly opposed, when our conversation started, to having anyone helping her around the house and insisted that she could take care of everything herself. But during the course of our time together, she found ways to say, both directly and indirectly, that she was lonely. She told me several times that while having someone help her with household tasks was somewhat important, her priority was having someone to talk to and spend time with her.
As we conversed further, while sipping orange soda and Grace’s favorite snack, Cheetos, she admitted that pushing her heavy Kirby vacuum cleaner was very difficult for her. She also said that changing her bed linens caused the pain in her back to flare up. “And I just can’t stand up long enough to iron my clothes any more. It hurts too much.” At one point in our conversation, Grace said, “You can pack your bags and move into my extra bedroom if you want. I love your company!” It was obvious to me that Grace was missing something very important—having someone with whom to converse and socialize on an ongoing basis.
By letting Grace define for herself what she felt she needed, she was much more open to having the help from an in-home senior care provider as her daughters wanted. We wrote a care plan together identifying the three household chores she wanted help with (changing bed linens, vacuuming, and ironing) while emphasizing the companionship and socializing. When I informed that her “helper” could assist her with her Norwegian baking and preparing Christmas cards to send out around the holidays or help her prepare to have her neighbors over for coffee, as well as play cards with her, she got so excited!
When thinking of arranging care for older people, many of us tend to focus solely on the medical and physical needs of the elderly folks we know. As adult children taking care of elderly parents, we may be able to manage a weekly visit, if we live close by, but instead of sitting down with our loved one, we end up doing the laundry, washing the floors, or making a meal. This obviously helps, but then we don’t have the time to sit, talk, and connect.
A couple of hours of socializing every week, whether from a paid companion or a volunteer visitor, can make elders to feel connected to the outside world and can help them to feel less lonely. Mental health experts will tell you that this ultimately affects physical health in a positive way.
Julie Ellingson, LSW
November 22, 2013
“Grace” is an 87-year-old woman who lost her husband of 55 years about 14 years ago. After his death, she moved into a beautiful one-level, two bedroom townhome and has lived there comfortably over the years. She loves the complex she lives in, enjoys sitting comfortably in her lawn chair in her garage, watching and waving as pe
Right at Home, a company offering home care in Minnesota, provides ongoing training for our caregivers about Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. After one of these trainings, I compiled the following list of “points to ponder” to help those who are taking care of elderly parents with dementia. These points are wha
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Debbie has been a caregiver for Right at Home clients for ten years. In those ten years, she’s seen it all. She’s had clients with only the aches and pains of aging, and she’s worked with clients with Alzheimer’s-type dementia who pinch and get angry. Through it all, she’s cared for each person with grace and compassion.
The following is an actual email that I received from the daughter of one of my clients just the other day. Thanks to having non-medical senior care in her home, this client has been able to remain independent since we began services in October of 2011. For me, her letter is a reminder of why the work we do at Right at Home is rewa
After 7 years, it was time for my client “Sadie” to have a new at-home caregiver. Her long-time caregiver “Mary” had to leave. I have to admit, I anticipated that Sadie would have a difficult time adjusting to someone new. After all, Mary had been with her for 7 years! Imagine the history they had together. Mary knew a