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Dementia care - what does the carer need to do?

A recent assessment shows that my relative who I care for now needs to go to a dementia care home. What about me? What do I need to do?

As you are the carer it is likely you will have been aware of the changes for your relative over time. While the assessment will show that their needs are now greater than can be realistically managed at home you may be feeling a range of mixed and perhaps conflicted thoughts and emotions about this; it's possible you will feel a mixture of grief and relief. It is very natural to feel this way. Be confident that you have done all you can to support your relative. You will adjust, and in time be able to live comfortably in your new role.

Your relative will also have emotional issues to deal with. Helpful information for you both can be found on the Dementia NZ and Alzheimers New Zealand websites. These organisations can be found throughout New Zealand and are supportive places for the person with a dementia, their family/whanau and friends. Contacting them as early in the condition as possible maximises the benefits for you all.

Now that the time has come for more formalised care the following is required:

Legal and financial aspects

It is important that the person going to a dementia care home has an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA) in place and that this is activated at the appropriate time. This allows the nominated persons/s to act on behalf of the person with a dementia (e.g. pay bills and help make decisions etc) and will streamline the process for all concerned. It's important too that a current Will is in place. Check that these things have been done.

Finding a suitable care home

It's likely you will need to help with this task. There are many different philosophies about dementia care which means that how one home operates can be significantly different to the next so when assisting someone to find a dementia care home look around, observe carefully and ask lots of questions such as:

  • What is your philosophy about dementia care?
  • What do you think are some of the most important things for those with dementia?

You might be surprised at the range of responses.  

Dementia can lead to the person exhibiting some behaviours that are difficult for others to cope with. Often these behaviours are due to some distress the person is experiencing.  Skilled staff will work to understand what these are and determine the best way to address them. It is important to ask about the home’s policy for managing and understanding these behaviours. Restraining residents through either physical restraint or medication is only permitted under certain conditions i.e. with doctor’s orders and for a limited period.

It is particularly important to choose a home where staff are well trained, empathetic and caring.  Ideally this would be a home where:

  • the resident’s dignity is upheld
  • the staff have a genuine concern for the residents and commitment to ongoing training for this specialised work
  • there is a high staff to patient ratio
  • there is a comprehensive programme of motivational/diversional therapy
  • you are also supported

Use the Eldernet checklists to help in your decision making. 

Finally try to find a care home that your relative might choose for themselves if they were fully able, rather than one that would suit you. Get their input as much as possible.

Updated: 11 Jun 2024
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