As the fall approaches, many of us are anticipating a busy season returning to work and school after the summer holidays. But for families who support a relative living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, this time can be fraught with anxiety about leaving that person at home without support.
As symptoms progress, it can become more difficult for the person with dementia to care for themselves at home, and there may come a point for many families when it is necessary to bring in others to help by accessing in-home support through a private agency or your local health authority.
Accessing home care can be a transition for both you and your family member with dementia. It is common for people with dementia to find new people and circumstances unsettling, which is why it is important to plan ahead for a positive experience. The following tips have helped the caregivers and families connected with the Alzheimer Society of B.C.
Start early: Start using regular in-home help and support as early as possible so that everyone can get used to sharing dementia care.
Timing is everything: Consider the person’s mood when choosing a time to talk with your family members with dementia about in-home help. Pick a time when things are calm.
Introductions: Introduce the care provider to the person with dementia before care begins so the care provider is not a stranger.
Start small: Consider having the care provider come the first few times while a family member (or someone the person trusts) will be at home. On future visits, leave for a short time and return. The next time, leave for a bit longer. Repeat this until the person with dementia begins to feel comfortable alone with the care provider.
Put the focus on you: Sometimes people are more willing to accept in-home help if it is presented as being for the caregiver or another family member. An example might be to say, “I need some help with the housework as my back has been sore lately.”
Use “I” language: Frame the situation so it is about you rather than the person with dementia. For example, you could say, “I know you are very independent and don’t feel you need extra help at home, but I worry a lot about you and this would help me not to worry so much when I am not able to be here.”
Provide reassurance: Try to sympathize and understand the fear and vulnerability associated with this transition. Take time to listen to how your family member with dementia may be feeling about these changes. It could take time before your family member feels more comfortable with the situation. Reassure them if they are anxious, even if you are feeling a little anxious yourself.
There is support: Talk with other families and caregivers about ways they have managed to make this a positive experience. One way to get connected is to join an Alzheimer Society of B.C. caregiver support group. Contact your local Alzheimer Resource Centre or visit our website at www.alzheimerbc.org to find out about support groups in your community.
For more information about accessing in-home support, contact your local health authority (contact information can be found at www.gov.bc.ca/health) or phone HealthLink BC at 8-1-1.