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Before Pop passed away in November, he drove from his house in Orlando to Grandma’s dementia care facility in Winter Garden every day. He was her primary caregiver for a couple of years before he realized she needed more care than he could provide.
Grandma declined mentally over a couple of years, but I think it’s hard to admit your loved one might need more help than you can provide. I’ll never forget my mom finding soiled undies hidden all around the house before Grandma went to the facility where she now lives. She clearly knew she had a problem but was embarrassed, or maybe she didn’t remember where her soiled undies were supposed to go, I don’t know. The final straw was when she was found frosting cookies with super glue.
Once a loved one goes into a facility, you still have to provide a certain level of care. If you’ve been a reader for a long time, you’ll probably remember when my grandma suffered at the hands of her caregivers. Having a loved one with a dementia-type disorder is so difficult because they can’t tell you why they are suffering, how they are suffering, or who is hurting them. They can’t tell you when they’re hurting or when they’re sad or when they’re feeling unwell. My Pop drove to Grandma’s facility every day of the remainder of his life, except for the few times he was in the hospital, first due to a car accident and then just before he passed away.
Placing a loved one in care doesn’t mean your job as caretaker is done. Here are some tips on making sure your loved one is comfortable in their new facility.
1. Make sure they have comfortable adult diapers for them to wear
The fact remains that assisted living facilities are busy places. The employees generally have a lot of residents to keep an eye on. That is especially true in a facility dedicated to people with disorders of the mind. Your loved one might sit in a soiled diaper for a minute longer than normal, so you want to make sure they have comfortable, effective protection.
We rely on Depend® Fit-Flex® Underwear for Women in size S/M for Grandma. They get the job done when it needs to be done. They are easy on/easy off, soft, quiet, and breathable. Grandma’s already got junk in her trunk, she doesn’t need any help in that department.
We buy them at Sam’s Club because of the phenomenal value. Check out the fancy new packaging so that you know exactly what to look for. There are options for men and women since we have different anatomy. Duh. If your loved one doesn’t need that level of protection yet, another great option are Poise® pads and Poise® liners for light incontinence, both also available at Sam’s Club. If you download the Digimarc Discovery app, you can scan anywhere on the packaging, and it will drive you to the Sam’s club Caregiver website. When you open your Depend packaging, it will have a sticker inside that you can use to redeem at the pharmacy for an awesome caregiver sample kit.
2. Make sure they have soft, comfortable clothing to wear
My grandma would be horrified if she knew she wasn’t getting red lipstick on her lips each day. She never left the house without it, and she wore boots with heels until she went into her facility. My mom tries to make it a point to find clothes that Grandma would wear if she was still with it but that are all comfortable. Clothing made with breathable fabrics and elastic waistbands are important. Soft night clothes, cotton dresses, and soft socks are all great options for your loved one with dementia to wear at their new facility.
3. Provide pictures of the family for them to look at
Nobody knows what Alzheimer’s Disease actually feels like for the patient. I like to believe that they still know and remember things, but lack the ability to orate it. Grandma tries so hard to talk to me when I’m there, but she’s not vocal anymore and the words escape her. She looks worried and I can see her lips moving but nothing comes out. She eventually just sighs and puts her head down, averting my gaze. I’ve learned to tell her it’s okay and that I know what she’s trying to say. I talk about the past with her, memories I have with her, and tell her what is going on in my life. I try so hard not to cry. We have pictures in her room for her to look at because we believe that somewhere in there, she knows who we are and even if for a fleeting moment, we want her to know that she is loved by many.
4. Get them something to cuddle
Grandma always loved babies, and apparently that’s a common thing with people with Alzheimer’s Disease. There is even a baby nursery full of baby dolls at her facility for the residents to play with and take care of. She loves stuffed animals, so we make sure she has something soft to cuddle with that will help keep her feeling safe.
5. Arrange regular visits
When Pop was still living, he had this on lock. He went to be at her side every day. Now that he’s gone it’s a little more difficult. I live about 6 hours away and my mom just moved up here near me, but even when she lived near Orlando, she was only home one week a month. My wonderful pseudo-aunt goes to visit weekly, and I go each time I’m in Orlando. One of my best friends is my grandma’s massage therapist through hospice care and she visits every Thursday. If you can’t be at the facility on a regular basis, make sure you have someone there to check up on them to make sure they’re receiving quality care, to make sure they know they are loved, and someone to just give them a hug around the neck. Pop used to take Sarge with him, so we take him when we travel to Orlando so Grandma has someone to cuddle with.
Animal therapy is an awesome way to make someone with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia feel calm and happy. Dogs really liven the place up, so if your loved one’s facility allows animals to visit, consider taking your pet in for the residents to pet – it’s good for everyone, even your animal.