How do you know when it’s time to start nursing home care?

The top desire of most people — Alzheimer’s patients or not — is to keep a loved one at home for as long as possible. Each caregiver and each person has a different threshold for what he or she can deal with (and survive with) at home.

For example, if incontinence is involved and a person can’t go to the bathroom on his or her own, a caregiver might think it is almost automatic that nursing home placement is necessary. Other issues involving “activities of daily living,” such as eating, dressing and wandering, or behavior or wandering issues, might worry caregivers, too.

Sometimes caregivers think they have reached their limit but then realize things aren’t as bad as they first think. This is often the case if they have taken steps beforehand to pre-arrange help. Being prepared and pro-active will lower stress and worry, and likely put off facility placement, for at least a while.

Whether to keep a loved one at home or in a nursing home is a very personal choice. Most caregivers want to keep their loved one at home as long as possible; most individuals agree with this philosophy. But keeping a person at home isn’t always the best choice. Nursing homes are a needs-based service and there are very real reasons people need to be there. Moreover, nursing home placement may be necessary for the caregiver’s health. If you are the primary caregiver and someone you respect voices concerns about your health, you should listen with an open mind. Many caregivers are too close to a situation and do not view things rationally or objectively. It could damage their health.

There are numerous senior service agencies around to help with the decision about nursing home placement. Get a list of options soon after you receive the Alzheimer’s diagnosis. This will help you be more comfortable, by planning and being more proactive, rather than being unprepared and uncertain during what could become a crisis situation.

Dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer’s is a daunting task. There’s no need to tackle it alone, however. An excellent resource is “The Indispensable Alzheimer’s Resource Kit.” It can be downloaded at no cost by clicking here.