With an ageing population and longer life expectancy, caring for those with dementia is becoming an increasingly important issue. But if you can’t care for an elderly parent or loved one yourself, what are your options? Should you consider home care or residential care? Tony O’Flaherty, Director of Home Instead Wandsworth, Lambeth & Dulwich guides us through the advantages of home care…
Why is the need for elderly home care rising?
An ageing population and longer life expectancy coupled with the rising rates of dementia and other diseases means that an increasing number of people need help to remain living independently in their own homes.
The most prevalent form of dementia – in 60-80% of cases – is Alzheimer’s disease. But there are other types of dementia, including vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia (see kindlycare.com to find out more about these).
It is estimated that one in three people will care for a person with dementia in their lifetime: 10 million Britons alive today are expected to reach 100 years old, with dementia affecting one in three people aged over 95.
The advantages of home care
97% of elderly people say they would prefer not to move into a residential care home if they become ill or incapable of caring for themselves. This is chiefly because they are able to remain in familiar surroundings and stay connected to their neighbours and community, but also because they feel more in control of their life and are free to determine their own daily routines.
Home care, as opposed to residential care, is better suited to people who are still able to perform some home duties and value their independence and routines. Plus, being looked after in your own home can also prove more cost effective than a residential home.
An elderly person may be better suited to residential care, however, if they have complex medical needs that require around the clock care, so long as they wouldn’t be upset by moving out of their home and losing touch with social networks.
Caring for people with dementia at home
Compassionate care within a person’s home environment preserves dignity, promotes independence and improves the quality of life for the elderly, and is particularly beneficial to those living with dementia, since they remain in familiar surroundings.
It is important that there is continuity of care, ie. the same caregivers, so that the elderly person is able to build a meaningful relationship with their caregiver.
Routine and the presence of familiar faces are of special importance to those with dementia.
There are three stages in the development of dementia – the early or mild stage, middle or moderate stage and late or severe stage – each of which may require different caring skills.
Symptoms of early stage of dementia, specifically Alzheimer’s, typically include forgetfulness, losing things, difficulty finding the right words and being unable to recall a recent conversation.
During middle stage Alzheimer’s, there is likely to be increased confusion, greater memory loss and difficulty recalling personal information like address, phone number and birthdays. At this stage, individuals are likely to start needing assistance with daily tasks like dressing or bathing.
In the late stage of Alzheimer’s, it becomes difficult to communicate fluently, physical capabilities start to decline and there is an increased susceptibility to infections like pneumonia. At this stage, individuals commonly require full-time assistance.
Carers should be trained in the specific strategies and techniques needed to manage the changing needs and behaviours of each stage of dementia
Carers should be trained in the specific strategies and techniques needed to manage the changing needs and behaviours of each stage. At Home Instead, which has 82 caregivers delivering outstanding care, visits are at least one hour long and there is an emphasis on continuity of care, which is particularly important for people with dementia.
Tony O’Flaherty is Director of Home Instead Wandsworth, Lambeth & Dulwich. Home Instead has over 190 offices across the UK, delivering over 6 million hours of care to over 9,000 clients and employing 8,000 people.
Images: Courtesy of Home Instead
Puzzled about dementia? Read Alzheimer’s Research UK’s article on 10 things you need to know about dementia