When to consider dementia care
As dementia is a progressive disease, there may come a time when your loved one needs more support than you can provide for them. When considering this situation, it’s important to explore all the options. Residential care isn’t the only available choice.
However, it can be tricky to know when it’s time to find more care for someone with dementia. And, unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer to this.
In some cases, your loved one may be able to tell you if they need more support. But sometimes they may have lost the ability (or mental capacity) to make this decision for themselves if their condition has reached an advance stage. If a health professional confirms this is the case, someone else will need to make that decision on their behalf. There are two main options: a Lasting Power of Attorney (if the person has this in place) or a deputy appointed by the Court of Protection if not.
Remember that you have the person’s best interests in mind and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you can no longer provide the care your loved one needs. If you’re worried about someone’s safety and know they cannot live independently anymore, it’s likely the right time to look into alternative care options.
Talking about care options with your loved one
Discussing social care options can be a challenging conversation to have with someone who may not feel very comfortable with the prospect of change. A dementia diagnosis can lead to feelings of confusion and depression, so take your time and be sensitive when you broach the topic. Try to involve the person’s wishes as much as possible. Think about what makes the person feel comfortable and safe.
Once you’ve raised the subject, the next step is to arrange a free care needs assessment from your local council. They will then be able to advise on the type of care and support which would best meet the person’s needs. If your loved one has had a care needs assessment in the past but their needs have changed substantially since then, you should ask the local authority to carry out a full re-assessment.
Extra support doesn’t have to look as permanent as home care or residential care. Respite means taking a break from caring, while the person you care for is looked after by someone else for a short period. It can be beneficial for both the carer and the person who needs looking after.
There are many different options to allow you to take a break from caring. The main choices are:
- Day care centres
- Respite care and support at home
- Respite care in a care home
- Organising friends and family to help
- Respite holidays
You may be able to get free one-to-one specialist support from an Admiral nurse in your local community. An Admiral nurse has special training in dementia and will be able to offer expert guidance on how to manage challenging problems. They work in the community, in care homes, in hospices and hospitals. These services are funded by charity Dementia UK and supported by the NHS.
Dementia home care
If your loved one needs more support on a long-term basis, home care is an option. Many people with dementia would prefer to live in their own home for as long as possible. Home care workers can help your loved one stay independent for longer.
In this type of home care, a professional carer will visit your loved one in their home, usually on a daily basis. This type of service may suit someone who needs help with personal care, such as washing, dressing or preparing meals.
If more support is needed, live-in care might be a good alternative to moving to a care home. Here, a professional carer moves into the person’s home so they’re available to help during the day or at night-time.
When should someone with dementia go into a care home?
Getting a dementia diagnosis does not automatically mean that someone will need to move into a care home. With the right support and planning, they should be able to continue living at home for as long as possible.
However, a care home may eventually prove to be the best option, especially in the later stages of dementia, if they need 24-hour supervision and support to stay safe and comfortable.
Here are some key things to consider if you’re thinking about a care home for someone with dementia:
- Try to start the conversation with your loved one as early as possible about their future care needs. Try to do this while they have the mental capacity to be involved in the decision. Encourage them to set up a power of attorney as this will enable you to make important decisions on their behalf if they lose the capacity.
- Get a needs assessment for your loved one from their local authority. This should recognise their dementia-based needs and recommend suitable care options.
- Many care homes specialise in caring for people with dementia. Using our care services directory to search for care homes, you can filter the results to show homes that are registered to provide dementia care. Also check on the care home’s website or marketing materials for more details about their approach to supporting residents with the condition.
- Before choosing a care home, ask some key questions to find out how well equipped the home is to support your loved ones needs. For example:
- What training have staff received for dementia care?
- Is there a dedicated dementia care unit?
- What specialist facilities or activities does the home offer for people with dementia, such as reminiscence therapy, a memory cafe or a sensory room?
- Can you arrange a meeting with an experienced dementia carer to talk about their approach?
For more helpful questions to ask when choosing a care home, download our handy checklist here.
If you are unsure about whether a care home is the right option, see our guide to When should you consider a care home? for more help.
Nursing homes provide personal care just like care homes, but also include 24-hour care from qualified nurses. While both types of residential care will likely have staff who are trained in dementia care, nursing homes may be a better choice if your loved one has complex health needs – such as another medical condition alongside dementia.
Our handy checklist provides the questions to ask when choosing a care home, if you do pursue this option. And our Care services directory can show you care options in your area which specialise in looking after people with dementia.
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