Eventually, most people who have Alzheimer's need outside care. Consider the options, from respite care and adult day services to assisted living and nursing home care.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you're caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia, it's important to understand long-term care options and carefully evaluate their services and quality of care. Here's help getting started.

Home care for a relative with Alzheimer's is often highly valued. To make it possible — and support your own health and well-being — you might consider various home care resources. For example:

  • Home health services. Home health services help with personal care, such as eating, bathing, dressing, grooming and toileting. Some agencies help with meal preparation and household chores.

    Basic nursing care — such as help with medications, wound care and medical equipment — is typically available. Some agencies provide additional services, such as physical therapy.

  • Respite and companion care services. Companion care is ideal for giving you the peace of mind to spend a few hours away. It also gives people with Alzheimer's an opportunity for socialization. Meaningful relationships can develop between people with dementia and their companions.

    You might call on family, friends or neighbors to stay with your relative when you need a break. If you'd prefer a more formal arrangement, consider respite care services provided by community organizations.

  • Adult day centers. Adult day care centers offer socialization, limited health services, mind and body exercises, music, support groups, and other activities in a safe, supervised environment. Participants leave home and attend daily or a few hours a week. Transportation and meals are sometimes provided. Some adult day centers are designed for people living with Alzheimer's disease.
  • Geriatric care managers. This type of manager can evaluate your loved one's needs and coordinate resources. In some cases, geriatric care managers can take over nearly all aspects of care. Some local government agencies and charities offer geriatric care consulting services free or on a sliding-fee scale.

As the disease progresses, your relative will need more help. You might consider alternative housing options. For example:

  • Assisted living. If your loved one needs support with personal care and daily activities, such as meal preparation, but doesn't need skilled medical care, he or she might be well-suited for an assisted living facility.

    These facilities are also known as board and care, adult living or supported care. Your loved one might live in an apartment or suite of his or her own or share a living space with other residents.

  • Specialized dementia care. If your relative needs more supervision or help than what's available through a traditional assisted living facility, he or she might benefit from "memory care" assisted living.

    While specific services vary, these facilities generally offer specialized staff training and structure the day around meaningful engagement and activities based on the individual's preferences and strengths. Visual cues, such as signs or pictures, are often used to help residents maintain independence. Enhanced safety measures such as secured exits are typical.

  • Nursing home. If your loved one needs skilled medical care, a nursing home might be the best option. Nursing homes provide room and board and round-the-clock supervision and medical care.

    Some nursing homes have special accommodations for people with Alzheimer's — the environment, activities and philosophy of care revolve around their needs.

To locate resources in your area, check the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. When trying to determine which type of care is best for your loved one, consider the following questions:

  • Does your loved one need help preparing meals or taking care of other personal needs?
  • Does your loved one need help taking medications or managing other medical problems, such as heart disease or diabetes?
  • Does your loved one need 24-hour supervision or special care? If so, what type of skills must a caregiver have to provide that care?
  • Would you prefer a facility that specializes in Alzheimer's care?
  • How will you cover the costs of your loved one's care?
  • Will the facility care for your relative in a manner similar to yours?

Some settings aren't well-suited to support those living with Alzheimer's disease. As your loved one's needs change, options for care might change as well. Any new care arrangement you make will involve blending your capabilities as a caregiver with your relative's needs.

Seeking help can ease the physical and emotional burdens of caregiving — and the earlier you consider the options, the better. If you wait until a crisis arises, you might make a hasty decision. Instead, take time now to evaluate your loved one's current needs and future options.

March 25, 2016