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Caring for someone with dementia
11 November 2019
Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by the progressive decline of cognitive function including language, behaviour, emotions, judgement and the ability to do complex tasks. As the disease progresses, so too does the level of assistance your loved one requires. Placement into an aged care home is often necessary.
Making your aged care decision
The decision to place a loved one with dementia into an aged care home is one of the most difficult decisions you can make; it’s a life event of enormous significance. There are usually many reasons for the move such as your own health, difficult behaviour from your loved one (aggression, irritability, behavioural problems and inertia), medical problems on top of dementia, and simply needing more help than you can realistically provide.
Once you’ve made the decision to place your loved one with dementia into an aged care home, there is a process to follow, including organising assessment through an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT).
You may find entering into aged care a difficult process due to the high care needs of your loved one, which can prevent you from being able to properly search for an appropriate home. If possible, enlist support from people you trust to help you. For some families, it makes sense to enlist the help an aged care advocacy service to provide trusted and independent advice.
Types of dementia care
There are several types of residential facilities that provide long term care, which are usually grouped according to the level of care they offer:
Low-level care residential facilities
These facilities are funded by the Australian Government and are suitable for people who are mobile and need some care assistance. They may require assistance with personal care, laundry, cooking, shopping or the supervision of their medications. Accommodation is usually in bed sitting rooms with private or shared bathroom facilities.
High-level care residential facilities
High-level care accommodation provides 24 hour nursing care for its residents, and is staffed by nurses, assistants or personal care assistants. Generally they are most suitable for a person in the later stages of dementia, or those with other medical conditions. The Australian Government funds all high-level care residential facilities.
These are units designed specifically for people with dementia and they can be classified as either low level or high level depending on the level of care provided. Dementia units or wards have specialist doctors, registered nurses, care assistants and allied health staff who have expertise in caring for residents with dementia. Not all people with dementia require a specific dementia unit. People with special care needs, such as those who may not be safely accommodated in general residential facilities, are best suited for these units.
Choosing the care you need
The type of facility that you choose for your loved one needs to be appropriate to the level of care they need, and their stage of dementia. It may help to have some practical advice from an independent adviser before making the move.
Transition into an aged care home for your loved one means living with new people in new surroundings while relying on other people to do some tasks. Loved ones with dementia can be disturbed by change. At time the transition into a home can be confusing and frightening. We suggest that you prepare their room with as many familiar items as possible.
As for you, the transition can cause emotional distress, including significant feelings of guilt. Careful planning and support from family, friends or carer support services can help make the move less stressful. Support groups are also available which may help lessen the guilt and further help you with the transition.
Our Gold Coast dementia care
At HillView we can offer dementia care to all levels. Merrimac and Ashmore are both dementia friendly communities, meaning that many residents living with memory loss can reside in the residential aged care sections of our communities. At Merrimac we also offer a secure dementia care unit for those with special memory loss needs. This unit consists of permanent residents, plus respite rooms for those requiring support for a short stay, based on availability.