Last year my mother was diagnosed with early onset dementia at only 61 years old. She had to leave her job as a nurse of 20 years, she can’t drive anymore, and has virtually no short-term memory. I am paying for my aunt to be with her 20 hours per week, and her partner is home in the evenings, but she is becoming more and more difficult and lashing out more often at everyone. I hate the idea of putting her in an assisted living facility at such a young age, but i worry that she is a danger to herself and other people if left unattended. When is the right time to start exploring assisted living facilities?
The decision to place a loved one in a care facility is not only deeply personal and anguishing, it is a decision that the will have to be lived with for years to come. Each decision is unique and should be treated as such. The right time to start exploring is now. Just because you explore, does not mean you will be moving your Mom into a facility next week. This will give you your options. It will educate you and her partner and other family members on many things, such as: how far away are the facilities? What are the monthly costs and will these costs increase as her care needs increase? What activities will they provide? How comfortable are you with the staff and the surroundings? Is there a waiting list? The sooner you start looking and gathering information the less stressed you will be if you decide a new home is what is best for your Mom. Waiting until you are at the breaking point could limit your choices.
There is also a lot of guilt that comes with this responsibility. Even after you think you have made your decision, there will be second guessing and things that will happen that you couldn’t possibly have foreseen or prevented. Then you will meet someone or read somewhere online that so and so’s daughter took care of their dad and wouldn’t think of putting them in a home and they were so glad they did and even though it was hard they would have never not done so…. At that point, you will have to remember your situation wasn’t the same and circumstances are different for every family.
Before making any final decisions, please be sure to discuss her behavior with her physician. There could be a reason she is acting this way and it can be addressed. I am sure she is scared and missing the business of nursing and being so independent. She could also be in pain or discomfort. See if there are any patterns: times of day, if she is tired or hasn’t had much sleep, if she is hungry or thirsty, if her clothes are comfortable, etc. Thank you for asking this most important question and know you are not alone, although it may sometimes feel like it.