Is Mom's Dementia Bad Enough for Her to Be Ready for Asssisted Living?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

Mom has dementia. She is able to feed herself but has to be coaxed to prepare anything to eat; can dress herself; can bath herself using an electric tub lift but only bathes once a week instead of daily like she used to; forgets days; difficulty explaining pain; constantly hides her money and when she cannot find it - accuses others of taking the money; will start an argument to get attention; she can't take a purse to her once weekly adult day care but insists on trying to take it every time; substitutes words - instead of earrings - will say ear ornaments; obsesses about food she should not eat like chocolate, nuts, etc. Most of all - has not been able to administer her medication and insulin for 5 years.

We plan to get a medical opinion (already has been diagnosed with dementia about 7 years ago) but is she ready for assisted living? I don't want her to be placed in a memory unit too soon.

Expert Answers

Kay Paggi, GCM, LPC, CGC, MA, is in private practice as a geriatric care manager and is on the advisory board for the Emeritus Program at Richland College. She has worked with seniors for nearly 20 years as a licensed professional counselor, certified gerontological counselor, and certified geriatric care manager.

Your mother is more than ready to go into some form of assisted living, where the effects of her disease on her physical health will be minimized. Most 'memory units' are licensed as assisted living, and many are part of a larger facility that includes various levels of assisted living.

Since she has diabetes, she needs a nurse to manage her blood tests and insulin. She needs her diet to be monitored. She needs assistance and encouragement with bathing and dressing. She also needs someone who is trained in speaking and listening to people with memory and speech disorders.

Carrying a purse for women of her generation is imperative. But it does not have to contain anything valuable. Give her a wallet, maybe with fake credit cards, and lots of change; add a set of blank keys of various sizes, kleenex, a make up bag with lipstick and compact, a pen and paper, and maybe include some photos. Put up a big bulletin board and post greeting cards and family photos. Ask all her friends to send a card for the board.

Make sure you take familiar objects to her room, such as a coverlet, pillows, photographs (copies only!), a reclining chair, and some personal items. Don't take anything that you cannot afford to have disappear. After the initial days, tell her that she has lived there for a long time if she asks. The idea is to make her environment familiar and safe.

Don't tell her she is moving until the day she moves. It will cause her anxiety, and there is no point in makes her more frightened than she already is. Remember to take care of you - her best asset!