Nicci Kobritz

When a loved one has dementia, you live two realities. In one, you are a hyper-vigilant caregiver, often not leaving the house for days at a time because you are afraid to leave your loved one home alone. In the other, you are an anxious, often frustrated and increasingly exhausted spouse, partner or adult child. In both realities, you are losing a loved one, and the physical and emotional stress of juggling both realities – especially as symptoms worsen – can become overwhelming.

Paid, in-home help may be the solution to the realities you are living because they take the time-consuming (and often energy-draining) activities – grocery shopping, strength-building walks around the neighborhood, bathing, oral care, medication monitoring, blood-pressure checks, dressing changes, etc. – off your to-do list. With someone else doing those things, you get to spend quality time with a loved one doing things that are enjoyable, rather than dictated by dementia; that are fun, rather than necessary; that bring smiles, rather than confused or angry outbursts; and that give you a temporary break – respite* I call it – from the responsibility (and accountability) that comes with being a caregiver.

In-home help is provided by different types of aides. How far along the dementia path a loved one is, their physical health, and your needs dictate which type aide you should consider.

Home care aides provide companionship, socialization, supervision and homemaker services (cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc.). They may also provide transportation to appointments or activities.

Home health aides have higher levels of training: today many are certified nursing assistants (CNAs). While they can provide the services listed above, they are best suited for situations where you need significant assistance with a loved one’s personal care and/or when they need nursing home-like care.
The decision to bring an aide into the home should be made only after you have zeroed-in-on the circumstances and situations where help in the home will lessen your stress. And you should not make it until you have interviewed several candidates (using an agency makes this easier); made sure that all the liability issues involved in bringing an employee into your home are covered; and you have checked applicant’s references.

And finally, dementia is a progressive condition, so keep in mind that the care plan and schedule you and an aide work out will need to be revisited periodically and revised as needed.

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