By Leslie Merchant
“I’m not sure, but I think it might be time to find a place for Mom (or Dad or Grandpa or Aunt Mary).” This has become a common scenario as the population gets older and medical advancements enable us to live longer. Finding the right place for a loved one suffering with dementia can be overwhelming. Facilities, services, location, staffing, all are crucial factors to consider when deciding where to start. Garden Courte Memory Care in Olympia is the boost many careworn families find to help them with the tough choices they have to make.
LaTanya Jules is the Executive Director of Olympia’s Garden Courte Memory Care. She knows first-hand that placing a beloved family member in a care community can be fraught with challenging decisions and emotions.
The Alzheimer’s Association can give some help when it comes to getting started, but LaTanya’s number one suggestion when it comes to finding the right place is to visit and walk the floor with the staff.
She cautions that many people focus on the aesthetics such as, “Is the yard manicured? Is the community worn?” Families need to feel comfortable on the inside and see the staff interact with the residents. LaTanya suggests giving your own personal “critical tour” and looking for things like staff and resident interactions and whether or not there are empty hallways.
Is it time?
How do you know when it’s time? LaTanya says it really comes down to quality of life for both the caregiver and the patient. She says denial can be very strong and people feel obligated to keep a loved one at home because they “promised” not to put them in a care community.
What many don’t realize is that their loved one didn’t anticipate that their condition would become too challenging for at-home care. For those really struggling with the decision, she suggests adult day care a couple times a week as a way to ease into the transition.
LaTanya advises people to really pay attention to how much their lives are devoted to round the clock at-home care. “Caregiver’s often lack a quality of life, as do those they are caring for, but with adult day care, they get a better sense of what is really involved once they steop back. Most people are exhausted; they just don’t realize how tired they are. The realization sometimes hits family members when they pull themselves out of it (for awhile). They see that it’s not about them, and they feel like it becomes ok to go on and make the move.”
Seeing residents in a different light, and participating in activities that are stimulating and safe can also be an eye-opener for conflicted families. Many times caregivers wait until something dangerous happens, and then they are forced to scramble to find a place. Day care or even weekend respites are great ways to ease into a more permanent solution before something tragic happens.
The staff at Garden Courte Memory Care are trained in all the usual ways, and even some original ones. LaTanya stresses that “behaviors come with the job; dementia isn’t pretty. The filters in the brain have gaps, and there is no control (over what to do) but we look for what’s familiar so you have to depend on the staff to be familiar and establish a new routine and not just give them medication.”
At-home caregivers tend to hover, which in turn can cause a family member to act out. Approaching residents from the front, exploring a resident’s unusual behavior, and giving them choices are just a few of the hands-on techniques employed at Garden Courte. LaTanya’s motto is “behavior modification before prescription modification.” Her staff echoes that theory, and it’s clear from the first encounter with a patient that this facility understands and considers each one individually.
People providing at-home care have many things to consider as far as keeping a loved one engaged. Many activities become too stimulating for them, such as going to the mall or even the grocery store. The beauty of a community like Garden Courte is that all of these factors are considered on a patient-by-patient basis. Individuals are treated according to their particular needs and likes, and outings are truly successful and not stressful.
LaTanya says, “We find things that are really important to the individual to make them feel at home here. As an Administrator, you have to be hands-on. You have to hit the floor everyday, and our community tries to do things a little bit differently. You have to talk with the residents. We don’t always get the right answer from a resident, but we will try to figure out what they need. Looking at their life journey and seeing what they like is how we organize our activities.”
Dementia is progressive. You just don’t know when and where a person suffering with it is going to end up. It can occur over time or it can develop rapidly, and it is not always a result of Alzheimer’s. Cancer, strokes, head injuries, even alcoholism can lead to dementia. Because there are so many avenues that can lead to permanent memory loss, establishing a long-term care plan early is highly recommended. Private facilities can be extremely costly and insurance companies can be elusive when it comes to covering specific facilities and services.
For more information on how Garden Courte Memory Care can help you decide if it’s time, please visit the website at www.gardencourte.com.