December 7, 2017

Families: Tips for Starting the Conversation About Dementia Care Over the Holidays

During the holiday season, many adult children will find themselves visiting aging parents and grandparents.

Sometimes, these festive gatherings may highlight the changing health of their loved ones, including signs of dementia.

Families can unexpectedly find themselves in unsettling conversations about memory decline, safety, healthcare and living situations.

These are not easy topics to bring up.

Landmark Health’s in-home doctors treat thousands of patients with varying degrees of dementia – in patients’ own homes – every single day. Our physicians and behavioral health team members expertly coach caregivers in starting the dialogue about dementia diagnosis and lifestyle care.

This healthcare program is fully covered for thousands of patients. Determining if a patient already qualifies for Landmark’s services – for dementia or other chronic conditions – is an easy inquiry through the patient’s insurance company. Simply ask if Landmark Health is an option for your loved one.

Here are a few tips to ease you and your caregiver family into a conversation about dementia diagnosis and care.

If you notice suspected dementia symptoms while visiting loved ones, use the time to assess and take note of what you see.

  • Depending on the situation, a holiday visit may not be the best time to bring up the sensitive topic with family members or the patient. However, observe what you see – jot down notes – and unless there is danger that requires immediate intervention, plan to talk in the New Year.

Trust your gut and the observations of family members who aren’t around as often.

  • Siblings or family members who haven’t seen aging parents or grandparents in a few months may have a good perspective on cognitive decline. Those who live closer may not notice changes, especially if they have been gradually occurring.

Don’t ignore signs of dementia.

  • It’s sometimes hard to know the difference between what’s age-related and what’s dementia. Enlist trusted national resources such as the Alzheimer’s Association for an initial symptom review.
  • Early intervention is key to safety and, in some cases, treatment.

Know when it is a good time to broach the subject.

  •  See if your loved one brings it up first, and asks for your help. If that doesn’t happen, look for an opportunity when everyone is relaxed.
  • Don’t use a condescending tone or speak to them like they are a child.
  • After the initial conversation, let it sit for a while and then gently bring it up again.

Enlist a professional to take the emotion out of it.

  • Some family members – or the patient – may be hesitant to admit dementia may be at play. It’s often easier for them to explain symptoms away.
  • A neutral third party – a doctor or caregiver – could be better suited to bringing up the issue.

Stay engaged and loving, and keep communicating.

  • Even though it can be sad to see a loved one decline, until a proper diagnosis is made, the best approach to suspected dementia is engagement, communication and loving care.

Check insurance coverage for in-home doctor coverage, in general:

  • Not all families realize that their parents’ or grandparents’ insurance or Medicare might already fully cover  the in-home doctor visits they need for a number of chronic illnesses, including dementia.
  • Landmark Health’s in-home doctors treat patients with chronic diseases – right in the patient’s home; ensuring a doctor’s appointment is never missed. The doctors are available by phone 24/7 and can come to patients for urgent and emergency visits, as well.
  • A house call doctor can also keep an eye on cognitive decline, medication and home safety issues if dementia is at play. They should also keep the family informed.

Around 50 million people worldwide have dementia and this number is predicted to triple by 2050, largely driven by an aging population, according to a recent study published by The Lancet.

However, promising research indicates that new medical tests – including a noninvasive eye scan – may detect disease sooner, allowing patients to begin medications and lifestyle changes earlier.

Accepting new realities, moving forward and focusing on activities that bring joy can help loved ones and families continue to find happiness during difficult times of change while still enjoying the holiday season.

The information provided herein is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.