Carefully Considering Living Arrangements for Your Loved One

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • One of the television news shows recently ran a series about baby boomers who are planning their lives in order to age in a different way than previous generations. One particular story described a family in which the three generations are living together in one home. These baby boomers expressed the sentiment that having their parents living at home (instead of a nursing home) is important.

    I agree with that view, but I also think that a decision of this importance needs to be made on a case-by-case basis. If you have a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease, you are going to face different issues than if the diagnosis was cancer or diabetes.
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    For instance, you only need to look at the local news to see a major challenge in caring for a loved one with dementia. On a regular basis, there will be an alert that a person with Alzheimer’s has wandered off and doesn’t know where home is. My dad mentioned that an elderly lady with dementia ended up in front of my parents’ home not once, but twice and was very confused about where she was. My friend, Jackie, described how during the time of Hurricane Katrina, one of her relatives left a Houston retirement community and wandered, thinking she was in New Orleans. As these two cases illustrate, caregivers must figure out how to ensure that the loved one is in a secure setting (whether at home or in a retirement community).

    Another reason to really consider the living arrangements for your loved one is the unpredictable behaviors that Alzheimer’s patients display. For instance, Mom will go into a rage some days and say some really cruel things. It would be very easy for family members to take these comments personally, but you have to realize that it’s the disease talking. Still, on an on-going basis, family members who have an Alzheimer’s patient living with them can be impacted by this verbal abuse.

    Then you have to think about the effect on the rest of the family, especially the children who may not understand what’s going on with the loved one. Around 1980, Mom brought her mother (who had dementia) to live with the family after my grandfather died. My brother, Steve – who was around 11 years old at the time – recounts how Grandma started going to the bathroom in the corner of a bedroom. Soon thereafter, Mom made the difficult decision that a nursing home was the right place for Grandma to live.

    I think that the various options about where an Alzheimer’s patient should reside need to be considered in a holistic manner. What stage of the disease does the loved one suffer? Where will the loved one be most secure? What unforeseen impact will the loved one’s potential reactions have on family members, especially children? Making these decisions is very difficult, but taking the time to think them through logically is important not only to the loved one, but also to the emotional well-being of each and every family member.


Published On: May 30, 2006