Meeting the Needs of Dementia Patients and Their Caregivers

An estimated 5.4 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, and 70% are cared for in the community by family members and friends. Unfortunately, most people with dementia who live at home have multiple unmet health needs, any number of which could jeopardize their ability to remain home for as long as they desire.

A recent Johns Hopkins School of Medicine study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society examined the unmet needs of people with dementia living at home. The study included in-home assessments and surveys of 254 people with dementia living at home in Baltimore and also interviewed 246 of their informal, non-professional caregivers. Researchers found that nearly all of the patients and caregivers had one or more unmet needs, involving safety, health, meaningful activities, legal issues and estate planning, assistance with activities of daily living, and medication management. Significant findings include:

  • 99% had at least one unmet need for care, services or support;
  • 90% had personal or home safety issues that could be met with simple fixes, including grab bars in the bathroom, carpets safely tacked down to prevent falls, guns locked away etc. Please read our blog post entitled, “Making Home Safe for Dad” for more details.
  • More than 60% had unmet needs for medical care, including the need to see a primary care doctor, specialist, dentist or audiologist;
  • More than half of the patients had inadequate meaningful daily activities at a senior center or at home;
  • One-third still needed a dementia evaluation or diagnosis;
  • Unmet needs were significantly greater in those with higher cognitive function, most likely because many of them did not realize they had dementia and were not yet being closely cared for or monitored.

The study also found that most caregivers have multiple unmet needs, including lack of access to resources and referrals to support services and education about how to best care for their loved one. Please read our recent article on caregiver training for some helpful resources.

Insufficient care, supports, or services can often lead to poor health outcomes, hospitalization, and early placement in a nursing home.  Therefore, it is always a good idea to plan for the future, just in case your loved one needs more adaptations and assistance than you can provide. Nursing homes in Northern Virginia cost $9,000 – $12,000 per month.  Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting your loved one from having to go broke paying for nursing home care, while also helping ensure that he or she gets the best possible care and maintains the highest possible quality of life, whether at home or, in the future, in an assisted living facility or nursing home. Learn more at http://www.VirginiaElderLaw.com and call us at our Virginia Elder Law Fairfax office at 703-691-1888 or at our Virginia Elder Law Fredericksburg office at 540-479-1435 to make an appointment for an introductory consultation.

 

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