Choosing a Care Home for Your Loved One with Dementia

person centred care dementia alzheimers care home aged care
Mum and Dad dancing in Music Therapy

When the time comes to choose a care home for your loved one to move into, it is a traumatic, bewildering and emotional season.

How do I choose which one? What about all the stories of abuse? How do I handle the guilt? What if I can’t find a place I am happy with them living in? My loved ones are so angry with me but there is no other way! What if I’m doing the wrong thing – but what else can I do? I wish this whole season would end – I want to just bury my head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening! I never thought I would have to do this! How do I respond to: “I would never do that to my parents” (yes … people said that to me)? My parents have no money – how will all that work? OR (as my friend is experiencing now) my parent has money – how do I navigate all the forms and deal with the possibility of having to sell their house while they are still living?

Here are some steps and then some hints from my experience:

STEPS

1. Register with myagedcare.gov.au – it’s never too early to have an assessment – this will mean they are in the system and ready to go when needed, even if they just need in-home help.

2. The aim is generally for your loved one to stay home as long as possible. See if there are home care services that can be accessed to lengthen their time at home.

3. Spend some time early on visiting various homes and checking waiting lists.  Better to be prepared and find somewhere you feel comfortable with then being forced to send them somewhere you aren’t happy with. Even if they never have to end up moving, you can always say no to a space more easily than finding something you like quickly.

4. When it becomes apparent they are in danger living at home (if you are not able to care for them), suggest they have some respite care. This is a way to ease them into the idea. We did this with my mother-in-law.  For my parents it became a forced situation after Mum had a fall and the hospital would not release her home. I still “sold it” to them as respite care – “you are just going to be looked after for a little while”. It feels awful to “trick” them, but it’s better all round – better for them to not have such a shock and better for you to have less resentment directed towards you.

Look for:

  • A home where the staff are happy and you can tell they really care and enjoy their job – on the tour, try to talk to some of the general staff, not just the manager showing you around. If at all possible, try and strike up a conversation with a visiting relative too and ask how they have found the home.
  • A home with a Person Centred Care model (see points below).  My parents’ home used Person Centred Care and incorporated Montessori as well as art, music and pet therapy. I was blessed to have found this place without even knowing what I was looking for and was delighted later when I learnt that they were using the most current models of care.
  • A home where you feel welcomed as a family member – as they progress, it will be difficult to visit and I found it comforting to feel so welcomed by the staff.
  • Be specific about their level of dementia and ask what happens as it worsens. For example, I had to move my parents from one home (without locks) to another when my Dad started wandering and getting lost. That was another trauma which made them worse and caused a lot of stress for me.

The Key Points of Person-Centred Care

  • Treating the person with dignity and respect;
  • understanding their history, lifestyle, culture and preferences, including their likes, dislikes, hobbies and interests;
  • looking at situations from the point of view of the person with dementia;
  • providing opportunities for the person to have conversations and relationships with other people;
  • ensuring the person has the chance to try new things or take part in activities they enjoy.
  • Family, carers and the person with dementia (where possible) should always be involved in developing a care plan based on person-centred care. Their knowledge and understanding of the person is extremely valuable to make sure the care plan is right for them.

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