My father lives alone and has been diagnosed with Dementia. He also suffers from a heart condition and takes many medications. He is adamant about staying in his home, but I have serious reservations. What are some options for my family?

I would suggest arranging a family meeting to determine who the primary caregiver is going to be and what role other family members will play. The primary caregiver should be able to make medical decisions and have access to financial information. Everyone can help with chores like grocery shopping, meal preparation, housekeeping, medication organization and bathing. It is important to remember that a person who has dementia at any level will function better with a consistent schedule; this allows for minimal confusion, opportunities for cueing and a decreased need for making complicated decisions. For example, you might have a sibling who says they will check in on your father every day by phone. This phone call should occur at the same time everyday and should be connected to another activity – i.e. right before or after dinner. It is often helpful if this schedule is written down so that there is no confusion among the caregivers and everyone can work together to keep your father on schedule. In your father’s house, using a large, easy to read erasable calendar might be helpful.

Once a schedule is established and roles have been assigned, you may want to consider if a non-medical agency to provide care in the home could be of use. Non-medical agencies have staff that have been screened and are insured. These agencies can personalize the services of their caregivers to meet the specific needs of each family. Non-medical agencies are helpful for filling the gaps in care that are often unavoidable due to the busy lives of the adult children.

It is important to remember that providing the opportunity for extended independence is a family decision and the primary caregiver should not feel that they have to accept the entire responsibility. By using scheduling, task assignment and consideration of available outside resources this can be a positive experience for everyone.

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