Before Barbara Larkin moved her 80-something mom into an assisted living facility in Maple Ridge, B.C., she would sit in her car outside her mother’s apartment and cry.
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“I felt like I was leaving a four-year-old in the house on her own,” she says.
Larkin’s mother, Eveline, suffered from dementia. She was increasingly unsteady on her feet and she was unable to shop, cook and care for herself. “She’d forget to eat,” says Larkin. “She only weighed about 115 pounds to begin with, but she was down to about 95 pounds.”
Larkin and her three siblings tried their best to talk their mom into moving into an assisted living facility. “We’d drive her around to a couple of places and I’d have the brochures,” says Larkin. “Then she’d say, ‘I’d rather die than move in there.’” Finally, says Larkin, “We had to make the decision for her. And once we did, she just went.”
“When we’d visit her at her apartment, it would be like, ‘Okay, we have to go get groceries now. And then to your doctor’s appointment,’” she says.
Moving their mom freed them up to have fun with her again – “take her out to lunch and that kind of thing” in her last few years (she died in February).
When to move to a higher level of care
“It’s a highly personal decision when to move on to the next level of care and it is often influenced by finances and community support,” says geriatric psychiatrist Dr. Ron Keren, of Toronto. “There’s no formula.”
Some of the key determinants, he says, are incontinence, problems with personal hygiene, wandering, aggressive behavior and interrupted sleep.
For many people who have dementia, the decision to seek a higher level of care is thrust on them (or their family members); precipitated by a fall or a health crisis that lands them in hospital. At that point, it helps to know your options and rights when it comes to accessing care in a facility of some kind.
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