Transitioning a loved one into Personal care assistant – the complexities of progressive dementia

By admin in Blog

Imagine the following scenario: Your loved one has accelerating dementia and you’re concerned about her safety. You aren’t sure if she’s taking her medication, and aren’t sure if you can trust her to remember. When you try and offer her support her, she rebuts by telling you to leave her alone and saying you don’t love her. She’s adamant about maintaining her independence (says it’s the only thing she wants), and is angry at the thought of moving into an assisted living facility, saying that you don’t care about her anymore and want to pass her along to someone else. She yells at you and says she hopes to never see you again. You’re frustrated, she’s frustrated, you want her to know that you love her unconditionally, but worry that your intervention is going to destroy your relationship and blemish the rest of your time together. Does this sound real? Possible? Even familiar?

Transitioning a love one, particularly one with increasing symptoms of dementia (disorientation, forgetfulness, changes in personality, decreased judgment, etc.), into a supportive living environment (like long term care calgary) can be troubling for all involved.

Even starting the conversation of moving a loved one into supportive housing can be an emotional circus. Misunderstandings from your aging loved one can result in terrible distress, especially when they don’t realize that you’re trying to help. Traditionally, older adults provide the wisdom, and when dementia progresses, there comes a time when younger caregivers may be the most equipped to make judgment calls about what is best for health and safety. Understandably, people have a hard time adjusting to that hierarchical shift.

When I lived in Vancouver, there was an available service (provided by geriatric social workers), to conduct these tricky scenarios. Experienced professionals are available to help transition the loved one (often severely affected by dementia) using a white lie: that their building was undergoing construction/fumigation/etc. and that they would have to be moved until it was safe to return. In theory, this white lie helps to move the individual out of their independent living situation safely and calmly, and over a short period of time the loved one begins to realize that they like and are comfortable in their new environment. Outsourcing the duty shifts blame from the family member to a professional (and stranger), thereby leaving the caregiver’s relationship with the aging loved one intact and trusting.

If you’re feeling lost, visit our resources page, talk to your doctor, your loved ones’ doctor, community spiritual leader, or community geriatric social worker – they may have suggestions based on past experiences. A great mid-way transition may be to introduce your independent loved one to home care. This is a particularly attractive option if doctors are saying that in order to remain at home, he or she will require additional support. Home care services may be as simple as having a professional come to the house to administer medication blister packs (often kept in a locked safe at your loved one’s residence), or may be as involved as 24-hour support for daily living activities. If you’re interested in exploring this as an option, please see our resource page for home care services in your area.

During this transition time, considering your loved ones’ fear, apprehension and mourning of lost abilities may put things in perspective. Treating them with intentional dignity, respect and compassion will almost always result in the best possible outcome.

What are your thoughts about transitioning a loved one? We’d love to hear your experiences below.