Everyone who has ever cared for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease understands the enormous responsibilities required for the person’s 24-hour care. However, some may assume the responsibilities cease once the Alzheimer’s sufferer is moved into a care facility. Obviously, some the specific duties may change, but do not think your job as an Alzheimer’s caregiver ends.
Our family learned this lesson the hard way. My aunt lives in an assisted living community that specializes in memory care. We believe this is one of the very best facilities in our area. The staff is caring, efficient, and involved with each resident and the resident’s family. With an average of 80 residents in the home, the demands on the staff are huge.
The ever-changing environment of a memory care facility necessitates constant attention to details. In situations like this, the overall performance of the staff is only as good as the worst employee. Poor record-keeping or lack of attention of one employee can compromise the Care 2 Stay of your loved one.
My aunt was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s when we arrived for a visit one day and were alarmed by what we found. She was normally talkative, friendly, and happy to be interacting with other residents. This particular day we found her slumped over in her chair in the dining room. She was barely able to respond when we spoke to her. She had a faraway look in her eyes. Our first thought was that she had suffered a stroke. We called for the nurse on duty. She explained that she had noticed a change in my aunt, but she didn’t think it was a stroke. She wasn’t sure what was happening, but she was confident no stroke had occurred. Therefore, she just left her sitting in the chair and did nothing. We asked for an ambulance to be called.
The ER staff of the hospital quickly determined that she had been given too much pain medication for her back problems. The amount of medication was reduced and she was much better within a couple of days. While this incident was upsetting to all of us, it was resolved and she returned to the home. This event happened as the result of trying to reduce her pain combined with the inattention of a lazy nurse. We never believed anyone had any malicious intent. We had already experienced problems in another nursing home with medications, but we believed that was an attempt to deliberately over-medicate to make patients easier to manage.
Since that time, there have been other examples where something needed to be tweaked in her daily medication routine. We have learned that it is extremely important for us to stay informed of any changes in particular medications and dosage amounts. Even the best facilities can make mistakes. No one is perfect. The level of attention required by the staff is so huge that mistakes will naturally happen. A team effort by the facility’s staff and a well-informed family of Alzheimer’s caregivers will help to guarantee the best care of your loved one with Alzheimer’s. It is your responsibility to stay informed. After all, you are the most familiar with your family member’s behavior and will be able to spot changes most easily.