Op-Ed

Involve elders in plans for their lives

It's a daily struggle for the 260,000 Kentuckians caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's — trying to provide the best care and accommodations for an aging family member and being met with resistance, tears, hurt feelings and deepening confusion.

You could be deciding whether a loved one needs to be moved to a long-term care facility, to a relative's home, or maybe you're considering hiring an in-home service to assist with bathing or meals.

Whatever the case, your loved one may feel their independence is being taken away as you make decisions about their future.

The Alzheimer's Association recommends a few simple techniques to make this process more bearable and to ease the tension.

First, recognize that your loved one is likely to be scared and stressed when plans to change their living arrangements are being made. Consider involving them in the process.

For some people with dementia, allowing them to be part of the conversation may help alleviate their worry. In other cases, the person is no longer able to understand and participate in the decisions. In these cases, find support from other family members and try to make the transition as smooth as possible.

During the conversation, stay focused on its purpose: creating a plan to ensure your loved one is receiving the best care available. If they are opposed to a certain option (like moving to a residential care facility), be prepared to compromise.

There are many options available to ensure proper care and maintain his or her quality of life. Whether you decide to hire a full-time live-in caregiver or look into an adult day program and arrange for meal delivery services, it's important to remember that you have options.

Sometimes it's necessary to bring a neutral third party into the discussion to mediate. The Alzheimer's Association employs trained consultants equipped to lend a listening ear and offer suggestions to appease everyone involved.

Mediators are valuable because they can provide insight from an unbiased perspective. They can also ensure the conversation stays on track, and reveal positive aspects certain changes can bring to a family.

Objections to major life changes are natural for those with dementia or Alzheimer's. By involving them in the process and focusing on positive outcomes, you can carry out a plan that the whole family feels good about.

The Greater Kentucky and Southern Indiana Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association will hold the annual Walk to End Alzheimer's in Lexington on Sept. 18. This year, 11 Walks to End Alzheimer's will happen in Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

These are the largest annual fund-raisers for Alzheimer's research, and bring together family, friends, caregivers and concerned community members who want to make a difference. Since 1989, these walks have raised more than $200 million to help those battling Alzheimer's disease.

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