Having a family member suffering from a difficult health condition is never easy. And if you need to take care of someone living with dementia, you’ll encounter many challenges, both physically and mentally. Therefore, it’s important to understand the condition itself, the patient’s needs and behavioural changes, so that you can decide on the best course of action for their care.
Many dementia patients can stay in their own home with the help and support from their family members, paid care workers or community nurses. It’s the familiar environment that helps them cope better with the difficulties and changes that their condition brings. However, they might eventually require more support in a residential home, such as a nursing home or a facility specializing in dementia care.
Dementia is a condition that causes a continual decline of the brain and its abilities of memory, understanding, thinking and language. It’s not a normal part of aging, but it does occur more in people over the age of 65. In Australia, a quarter of people over the age of 85 have dementia. Unfortunately, there is no cure for it, but getting good health care and following a healthy lifestyle may delay its progression.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and it accounts for 50-70% of all types among patients. It’s a degenerative and progressive disease that affects the brain by causing brain cells to die, so the brain substance shrinks which leads to certain information no longer being understood or recalled.
Early diagnosis is imperative in order to make better plans so the patient can live well with the disease and receive appropriate care and support.
There are many ways in which one’s family and carers can help a dementia patient. One of the options is remaining at home and receiving help and support there. There’s a range of options for getting good quality dementia home care. There are also some options that can be delivered through the Australian Government-subsidised Home Care Package or the Commonwealth Home Support Programme. This type of service may include help with daily activities such as personal care, grooming and dressing, to household chores such as cleaning and washing, and even certain home maintenance work such as lawn mowing or changing the light bulbs.
Another option is choosing to get support in an aged care home. All facilities that are subsidised by the Australian Government can cater for all the needs of dementia patients, but there are also many other homes that can provide more specialised services and trained staff to support any specific needs of the patients.
As dementia is a progressive disease and deterioration is inevitable, the patient’s ability to make financial and legal decisions will decrease in time. If possible, it’s a clever idea to plan ahead and get advice while the patient’s decision-making abilities are still intact.
This kind of planning may include getting an enduring power of attorney or guardianship, updating the patient’s will and making sure the patient’s personal preferences are known through the Advance Care Plan. You can ask for professional help and advice from a public trustee, a solicitor or a law society.
It’s also advisable that you set up a meeting with your bank manager or a licenced financial advisor to make arrangements as to who will manage the patient’s money if necessary and get any other financial guidance regarding the patient’s assets.
Dealing with a serious health condition such as dementia is never easy, neither for the patient nor for their family and friends. The best thing you can do is make timely preparations and secure the best possible care and support you can get.
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