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Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

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Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

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Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

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Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.


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About three years ago, my Grandma J started to display signs of dementia. At first, none of us noticed, because some of her negative personality traits became more pronounced, and we chalked it up to the normal effects of aging. Also, she lived alone, so we really had no idea what was really happening with her.

It wasn’t until later that we understood that her agitation, tendency to make inappropriate comments, and other negative behavior were actually all common symptoms of dementia.

She started having mishaps with her car, such as setting off the alarm and being unable to stop it, or leaving it running in the driveway until the gas ran out. It all came to a head when a police officer called my house to tell me that my grandmother had been in a minor accident and that they wanted to make sure an adult was available to “take custody” when they escorted her home.

After her accident, we started paying more attention and discovered that my grandmother had stopped taking her insulin and blood pressure medicine, she had stopped seeing her doctor, her diet consisted mostly of junk food and sugary soda, and she had stopped paying many of her bills because she was giving all her money to scam artists.

We finally had a medical assessment done, which confirmed her dementia.

If you notice any changes with your elderly loved one, no matter how small, consider having the person tested. Even the smallest thing could be an early sign of dementia.

My mother was able to get power of attorney to take over my grandmother’s finances and keep her out of reach of the scam artists. We also took turns bringing her meals, taking her to the doctor, and making sure she took her medication. We thought we were doing pretty well until we discovered that she was taking cabs to points unknown and then hitching rides home with total strangers.

We realized that we needed help.

Finding a suitable nursing home is difficult under the best of circumstances, but when the person has dementia, needs medical care for two chronic conditions, has decimated her savings on bogus sweepstakes scams, and has let her Medicare lapse due to nonpayment, the task becomes more difficult.

The first step was getting my grandmother’s finances in order. We were lucky in that my grandmother was still getting monthly pension payments from her years as a schoolteacher and that we were able to get her Medicare reinstated. There was a great deal of paperwork and a lot of hoop-jumping, but we got it done.

People don’t like to talk about finances, but it’s always a good idea to gently check in with an elderly family member, especially if they are still living independently. That way, you can avoid any unpleasant financial surprises.

The next step was choosing a facility. It had to be central to all of us and allow her to live somewhat independently, but provide much-needed nursing care. We found a place near my mother that offered one-bedroom suites with 24-hour nursing on each floor.

The last — and hardest — step was getting her to go to the facility. During the research and application process, we had taken her to all the meetings with the administrator as well as to the contract signing; we had taken her to her floor and showed her around her new apartment and the rest of the facility; we had even told her several times about the move.

Sometimes it registered, and she would fret about having to pack and move all her stuff and declare that she didn’t want to move out of her home. Other times, she seemed interested in moving and would ask what we were going to do with her house after the move.

Despite her memory issues, our hard work keeping her in the loop paid off, and the actual day of the move went fairly smoothly.

You should always involve your loved ones in the process, even if you think they might not remember. After all, they will be giving up their homes to live in a facility for the rest of their lives. You need to make sure it’s a good fit, and the best way to do that is to get them involved.

It only took my grandmother a few days to get into the groove of the new place — she is very social — and she had no trouble making herself at home. She is also more relaxed, her health has improved, and she gets all the social stimulation she needs in the form of group activities and events around the facility.

Although it was initially difficult, getting her into a good facility has made all the difference to her — and to us.

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