Dementia and Neurological Problems · Uncategorized

Dementia: is it time for a nursing home?

Maybe it’s your mother who has Alzheimer’s, or it’s your husband who had a stroke and needs extra care.

Their memory is failing.  They repeat themselves in conversations, get lost when they leave the house, can’t hold onto new information or memories, won’t shower without a lot of convincing, and at times (and this is what breaks your heart the most) don’t even recognize you.

They have dementia.  They’re at a fragile part of life, and you’ve devoted yourself to being their caregiver.  Chances are it’s been years.  Chances are you’re worn out.  And now the question comes up: is it time for a home?  For many caregivers, it’s a painful question.

Sometimes the choice is clear.  Moving someone to a home is absolutely necessary when either the caregiver or person with dementia is severely ill, injured, or hospitalized.  This is an emergent situation and usually organized by doctors.

But most often it’s a caregiver decision, and we’re back to the original question: is it time for a nursing home?  That is, how do you know it’s time?  To help you maneuver through the decision, here are some signs it’s time to move your loved one to a home.

  • You’ve hurt your back or fallen when trying to move them.
  • They have medical or nursing care needs you really can’t handle, despite your best efforts. You keep making mistakes with insulin or forgetting to administer medications as prescribed.
  • The family member’s become aggressive or violent, and you don’t feel safe living at home with them anymore.
  • Even though they aren’t aggressive, they’re so uncooperative at times that it’s interfering with basic care, like feeding, bathing, and getting out of bed.
  • Your family member has wandered outside and gotten lost. Remember, it’s unreasonable to expect you to stay awake and watch them 24 hours/day!
  • You’re paying for around-the-clock nursing care and can’t afford it anymore. (Nursing homes are less expensive than 24 hour in-home services.)
  • Your own health is failing, or you have upcoming surgery.
  • Your emotional well-being is suffering, and you can’t take proper care of your partner or family member anymore.
  • The doctors recommend you move your loved one to a nursing home.
  • Friends and family members keep telling you it’s time to consider a home.

If one or more of these warning signs are present, it’s probably time.

Moving someone you care about into a nursing home seems a painful ordeal, but not always.  Most patients do well with the change.  They like the daytime structure, the young workers and extra attention, and once they bond with a staff member or two, they typically settle right in.  Families are usually surprised, even relieved.  Finally they have a chance to breath.  Even better, time together is now devoted to talking and listening, not worrying about an upcoming shower or changing diapers.

For more information about choosing a home, talk to your family doctor for recommendations, check your local area for assisted-living and skilled nursing facilities, and research each home’s reputation online.  Make sure to visit each facility and ask questions.


Read more about choosing a nursing home on the National Institute of Aging website.

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