Caring for a Spouse with Memory Loss
Memory loss is a health condition that is as varied as the people who are experiencing it. It requires a special level of skill and commitment on the part of caregivers. Caring for a spouse with memory loss may be something that you will want to do in your own home. However, the time may come when you will need to move your spouse to an assisted living or memory care community that will provide both expert care and the compassion needed to effectively manage and treat your loved one.
The Complications of Memory Loss
Memory loss can occur either suddenly or gradually over time. A sudden onset can be caused by a brain injury, a brain tumor, or stroke. In some situations, memory can be gradually reclaimed, but in other cases the loss is permanent.
Memory loss is further complicated when the loved one involved is a spouse. While your spouse might normally be a partner in the care of another person with memory loss, they instead become the one in need of care. This can put a high level of stress on the caregiving spouse, particularly if he or she is still employed.
Caring for a Spouse With Memory Loss
In one sense, caring for a spouse with memory loss does have the advantage that often no special living arrangement is required, at least in earlier stages. This eliminates the need to move the loved one to a new environment, such as would be necessary for a person who lives alone.
The level of care required will depend on the loved one’s specific degree of memory loss.
If memory loss is mild or partial, care may be centered primarily on handling household functions that the spouse is no longer able to do. This might include cooking, cleaning, paying bills, shopping, doing laundry, and caring for pets. It may also include basic medical assistance, such as taking the loved one to the doctor, and administering medications.
Care at this level can often be accomplished in the home. It may mostly be a matter of the caregiving spouse expanding his or her own household responsibilities.
A higher level of care is necessary if the loved one needs regular assistance with activities of daily life. This can include eating, dressing, bathing, and keeping to a regular schedule.
Making the Decision to Get Professional Help
Most families – and certainly spouses – prefer to care for a loved one at home when possible. But what often determines the need to seek professional care is the loved one’s ability to perform very specific personal activities.
These are referred to as activities of daily living, or ADL’s. There are six activities, including:
- Bathing. The ability to clean oneself and perform grooming activities like shaving and brushing teeth.
- Dressing. The ability to get dressed by oneself without struggling with buttons and zippers.
- Eating. The ability to feed oneself.
- Transferring. Being able to either walk or move oneself from a bed to a wheelchair and back again.
- Toileting. The ability to get on and off the toilet.
- Continence. The ability to control one’s bladder and bowel functions.
The decision to move a loved one into a memory care community like Kensington Place may not be necessitated by the loss of one of these functions. But two or more is an indication that it may be time to seek professional care.
One of the major reasons why professional care may become necessary is that a loved one who is who is unable to perform several ADLs may require direct care for many years. This can take a major toll on family caregivers, especially spouses. The toll can be physical, emotional and financial.
Cognitive impairment moves the caregiving decision beyond a loved one providing direct care for themselves. Memory loss actually changes the way a person thinks and behaves. It even changes how they react to situations emotionally. It’s not uncommon for a person with memory loss to become oppositional.
These changes present unique challenges for caregivers, particularly the spouse of the loved one who is experiencing memory loss. Depending upon the level of memory loss, a loved one can require constant supervision. He or she may also change their patterns of communication.
These changes could manifest themselves in the form of behavioral problems. These can include impulsivity, aggressiveness, or paranoia. In some cases, the loved one may be prone to wandering off. This particular behavior can make it extremely difficult for a lone caretaker to fully care for the loved one.
One of the more confusing aspects of these behaviors is that they often present in the form of “on again, off again” episodes. A loved one’s memory may fade in and out. During the times when memory returns, they can function and behave as normal. This can give rise to the possibility that they are returning to normal. In fact, that is often the case when memory loss is temporary.
But once memory again fades, and the loved one returns to unpredictable behavior, caretakers can be taken by surprise. What makes it especially problematic is that it can never be known when the shift will occur.
These are the circumstances under which professional care becomes the best treatment option for all concerned – the caregiver and the loved one.
When the Time Comes, Choosing the Right Care Facility will be Your Most Important Decision
When the time comes to make the difficult decision to move your loved one to a care facility, choosing the right one cannot be underestimated.
A number of factors need to be considered in making that choice. You certainly want to choose a community that is physically attractive and well-maintained.. It will also be important that it has comprehensive programs, including unique therapies and pocket programming. Memory loss is an incredibly diverse condition, and may call for the implementation of a number of different therapies.
The facility must also have the right emotional environment. Caring for anyone who cannot care for themselves requires a great deal of compassion, education, and training. It’s crucial to have confidence in the team providing care for your loved one.
Kensington Place Redwood City specializes in caring for those experiencing memory loss. And while this condition most commonly affects older adults, we welcome those with early onset or special circumstances as well. Caring for those with memory loss requires a special commitment. We have that commitment and – when the time comes – we promise to provide the most comfortable environment and best care possible for your loved one. We promise to love and care for your family as we do our own.