Families with loved ones living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia often face a difficult question: Is it time to move Mom or Dad into a memory care community? 

The decision is never easy, said Shanna Lindsey, executive director of Autumn Leaves of Stone Oak.

“Once diagnosed with memory loss, a person might be able to live independently for some time,” she said. “But sooner or later, likely that person will require more care than can be provided at home.”

Many people with dementia are prone to wandering, and they can easily get lost, fall, or become injured. When that happens, 24-hour supervision is needed to keep the person safe. 

Caregiver burnout is also a key factor. Some people with dementia exhibit agitation or aggressive behavior. As the disease progresses, round-the-clock care requirements become more intensive.

“When the primary caregiver is also older, his or her health can quickly become compromised as well,” said Lindsey. “Having worked as a nurse for 23 years, I’ve seen this happen many times. The caregiver ends up exhausted and stressed out, and ends up in the hospital.”   

Many families postpone the decision because it may trigger feelings of guilt or sadness.

“These feelings are common,” said Lindsey. “But families are often pleasantly surprised once a loved one moves into the community.”  The daily program of activities and the opportunities for socializing often “perk up” a resident who was depressed or withdrawn before.  Autumn Leaves staff are trained in dementia care and can calm residents who become agitated.

“Many families say they enjoy their time with a loved one more after the move, because they don’t have the stress of handling all of the responsibilities of caregiving,” Lindsey said. Family members may share meals at the community, at no charge, and are invited for special celebrations.

“The families of residents are part of every Autumn Leaves community, and this can ease the transition,” she said.

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Autumn Leaves of Stone Oak. For more information or to schedule a tour, call 210-497-5200.