After a diagnosis of dementia, whether it's Alzheimer's disease, frontal lobe dementia, lewy body dementia, or another type, it's normal to feel angry, depressed, scared, and confused. It's a difficult disease to cope with and manage.
However, developing a care plan for dementia can not only help and will ensure that your loved one is able to live to the fullest extent. Although thinking about and tackling the problem head on may seem like that last thing you want to do, it's important to start as soon as possible, and it will help you to move forward with confidence.
Step #1: Establish a Care Team
A care team is comprised of medical professionals, family members, and close friends who will be assisting your loved one. Every person in the care team should understand the scope of care for your loved one and should be involved in the decision making that is appropriate for their care role. People who might be part of the care team include
- Medical health professionals
- RN case manager
- Social workers
- Representative at your local Toronto CCAC
- Adult day program supervisor/staff member
- Family members (especially those who live close by)
- Close friends and neighbours
- Personal support workers
- In-home health care professionals
The care team should have a coordinator that will be the liaison between the team members. This might be you or another family member. If you have an RN case manager, however, they will coordinate your loved one's care and provide professional advocacy to ensure the highest level of care.
Step #2: Get Educated
Understanding the disease, its symptoms, and its effects can greatly reduce anxiety and fear and help you mentally prepare for the future. There is endless information available on dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. Here are some ideas on where to learn about various dementias:
- Alzheimer's Society of Canada
- The local library
- Your loved one's doctor or specialist
- Friends or acquaintances who have dealt with the disease
- Toronto Dementia Network
Share this information with your loved one and care team. It will help you make better-informed decisions and keep your loved one healthier longer.
Step #3: Develop a Support Team
As a family caregiver for your loved one, developing a nursing care plan for dementia is tough. Implementing that care plan without getting burnt out and frustrated is impossible. As a primary caregiver, you need your own support team to cheer you on and to step in when you need a break. Your support team may consist of other family members, some close friends, religious community members, and support groups.
Dementia Support Groups
There are many support groups available to caregivers in Toronto. Here are a few.
- Alzheimer's Society Support Groups
- Baycrest Seniors counseling at 416-785-2500, ext. 2223
- Services through the Toronto Dementia Network
- "Caring for the Caregivers" support group by Dementia Support at 416-638-8600
Step #4: Make the Appropriate Lifestyle Changes
Making healthy lifestyle choices can improve and maintain healthy brain function longer, and improve overall health and well being.
Challenge Your Brain
Research has shown that using the brain increases the neuron connections housed there and keeps it in better working condition. Playing games, doing puzzles, doing hobbies, and changing routine are all good ways to activate the brain. The Alzheimer Society of Canada has a BrainBooster section of physical fitness ideas, puzzles, and recipes. You can often find logic books, crossword puzzles, sudoku and word search books at local dollar stores.
Maintain a Social Life
Socializing is another way to keep stay connected mentally. Work, volunteering, travel, social hobbies, family and friends are all ways to stay socially active. It also helps reduce stress, boosts mood and maintains strong relationships.
Eating healthy foods are great for keeping the brain healthy as well as the body. Health Canada and the Alzheimer Society both have guides to healthier eating. Consult with your loved one's doctor and medical professionals for advice on an individualized diet plan.
Challenge Your Body
Staying physically active to the extent that your loved one's doctor recommends, helps stave off depression, increases brain function, and reduces the risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Your loved one's doctor can recommend the appropriate levels and types of physical activity.
According to the Alzheimer Society, "Stress causes your body to release chemicals that are damaging to the brain and other cells in your body when it persists over time. Stress can cause vascular changes and chemical imbalances that impact the brain. By reducing the harmful effects of stress on your body, you improve your brain health." Following the above suggestions will help lower stress levels. Other ways to improve ones internal reaction to stress include meditation, deep breathing exercises and massage.
Step #5: Plan for the Future
While your loved one is still in the early stages of dementia, it is crucial to logistically prepare for the future. This is the time to put finances in order, collect all legal and financial documents in one place, prepare or review their will, and arrange for a power of attorney when they are no longer able to make their own decisions.
The Alzheimer's Society recommends your loved one make a list of all the important documents that need to be in place and to review them with the family so that they can be aware of your loved one's wishes. A lawyer can help determine what the documents and legal requirements are for Ontario.
Then, your loved one needs to designate a family member who will have access to bank accounts and credit cards, loans and mortgages, insurance policies, investments, and prepaid funeral arrangement and/or cemetery plot.
Finally, a family member (of your loved one's choosing) needs to be the substitute decision-maker, once your loved one is no longer able to make to do so. This part does not have to be in writing, but it needs to be discussed and shared with family members so that they are aware of the wishes of their loved one.
Step #6: Seek Professional Care Help
Although your loved one may not need a personal support worker or home health care professional now, they will need assistance in the future. It's useful to have a case manager help you design your nursing care plan for dementia early, while your loved one can still be involved in the process.
Qualicare offers complete nurse managed care to support you and your loved one through all stages of their dementia. Your RN case manager can help you devise a plan, coordinate with the care team, and provide support to your entire family so that you can maintain your own well being during these difficult times.
Of course, it can be hard to let a stranger into your life to care for your loved one. That why we feel it is important to offer a consistent caregiver that develops a working relationship or bond that allows them first hand knowledge of each person’s behaviors, and how best to respond to them in a calm and effective manor. Having well-educated, consistent and experienced caregivers can allow a person with Alzheimer’s to stay at home safely with the dignity and attention they deserve.