All you women readers will recognize that a man wrote this, because it mentions Valentine's Day, but is a week late. The month of February and Valentine's Day brings a celebration of love and stirs couples to rekindle feelings of romance and devotion. Not so different from young couples are aging seniors, celebrating memories of sweethearts and romance in days gone by. Sit a while with a senior couple and they will soon be telling you their romance story.
Dementia and Alzheimer's can rob senior minds of many of these treasured memories, changing their personality and life style. Because of these and other illnesses, many seniors end up in nursing homes or care facilities where only their basic physical needs are provided by the facility. To these seniors, Valentine's Day becomes no different than every other day. They often find it difficult to relive memories of the past. In one care facility a sign placed lovingly over a patient's bed reads, "I Am somebody's Sweetheart", as if to say, I once dreamed, lived and loved, please treat me kindly.
When asked how she relates to those she cares for, nurse assistant Karen W. replies that most of the time it's those patients who are causing a disturbance or may be in danger of harming themselves who are the ones that get her attention. Very seldom has she time to personally get to know well all the elderly people she cares for.
Although this is true with some facilities, the need for more personalized care is, in some cases, being recognized. Assisted living facilities with specialized memory care programs, some using art, music and dance or physical activities, are finding great success with increasing the quality of life for those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's. If you cannot find a facility in your area that provides this special attention, home care may be a better option.
Consider this real experience. When Nora would visit her father in the nursing home she would find him sitting, slumped over and disinterested in his surroundings. By the time she and her young children finished their visit, he was alert and talking to them. Feeling he would do better in her home environment, Nora hired a Geriatric Care Manager to evaluate her father and determine what would be needed for home care so that he could get the social stimulation that he needed.
A Geriatric Care Manager can be a valuable asset when it becomes necessary to look at alternatives for long term care. Some services provided are:
1. Make an assessment about the type of care needed
2. Develop a care plan for both current and future care
3. Work with physicians in getting medical support
4. Find home care services that fit with families needs
5. Provide direction for legal and financial issues
Appropriate home care services are also often necessary when a change in environment is
called for. Elders with diminished capacity are disoriented when their familiar surroundings and routine are changed.
Types of Home Care are:
1. Home health care companies: provide nurses, physical therapists, social workers and aides that assist with basic health care such as changing bandages, taking vital signs and helping with medication as well as a host of other skilled needs.
2. Non-medical home providers: help with bathing, dressing, meals, ambulating, chores, errands, housekeeping and much, much more.
With help from her Geriatric Care Manager, Nora brought her father to her home. The
care manager worked with her father's doctor, prescribing a physical therapist and nurse's aide to come to the home. A non-medical home care company was employed to help with daily bathing and dressing.
There is a growing market for care providers throughout the nation to fill the need of senior care services. Assisted living, home care and geriatric care managers and geriatric clinics are all part of these services. The National Care Planning Council supports family caregivers with information and resources of all types of long term care services on its website: www.longtermcarelink.net. In addition, there are law firms that recognize the need for more comprehensive services to their elderly clients, services that include long term care planning with the aid of geriatric care coordinators, thereby helping families to get the right type of care for their loved one.