10 Steps to Making a Dementia Care Plan

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So, things got hectic quickly. Your loved one started acting different. Maybe he or she started losing items around the house. Perhaps they began having mood-related issues. And…guess what else? You don’t have a plan for how to handle any of this. Good news: here’s a step-by-step “what do we do now” plan:

  1. Start by getting a diagnosis. Locate a neurologist, geriatrician, or nearby hospital that specializes in brain function and dementia. People will often tell me that “their primary care doctor thinks it is…” but I don’t trust the PCP for the best info. Dementia is a broad diagnosis, and you deserve to know what type of dementia it is.
  2. Even if the diagnosis isn’t Alzheimer’s disease, look up the Alzheimer’s Association in your area, and then give them a call. They’ll probably know about resources available to you in your specific location.
  3. Find a support group. A great deal of senior living communities offer free support groups to the public. You’ll meet other caregivers and be able to share knowledge, stories, and general information.
  4. Talk to your loved ones about dementia care communities. It’s a hard topic to broach, but talking about it sooner (rather than later) is the best approach. You need to know the ifs, whens, and hows of deciding to move someone to a care community.
  5. Find out about respite care in your area. Is your loved one living at home with you? Are they in their own home? Find out if a local home care company can check on your loved one during the day or night.
  6. Research elder care lawyers in your area. Know your options for getting the Power of Attorney put in your name. You may need it more than you think.
  7. Decide what you’re going to be doing about that person’s driver’s license. It’s another tough call, but you do not want to wait until something terrible has happened before you make a plan.
  8. Talk about the long-term. It’s hard, but you will want to know what type of care your loved one wants when they become unable to voice their opinions on the matter. Do they want a feeding tube when they have trouble eating? Do they want religious services as a part of their hospice experience?
  9. Don’t wait to discuss hospice. Hospice is a wonderful program that is free to you to utilize. If you feel your loved one is declining rapidly, don’t put hospice off until the last minute. They can save you tons of stress and money.
  10. Whatever you do, don’t put decisions off. Make a plan with your loved ones so that you’ll be prepared for the unexpected. 
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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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