Breaking up “The Set.”

By Robert Elmer III on April 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

As many of you know, along with my writing and lecturing, I serve as The Executive Director of an Assisted Living and Memory Care Community in Coventry, Rhode Island. It’s no surprise that this kind of responsibility brings with it some very interesting scenarios.
Recently, we were asked if a demented wife could be joined in our dedicated environment for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias with her husband who did not have dementia. If the truth be told, he was one of those going through the heroic steps of care giving but now it had just become too much for him. The family couldn’t imagine separating them after 62 years together. They were convinced that once that happened, it would be the end of both of them.
As you may have read before, if you know a person with Alzheimer’s dementia, you know “a” person with Alzheimer’s. I constantly refer to it as the snowflake of illnesses because although there are similarities, no two individuals with dementia are alike.
The family was delighted to hear that we would accept a demented spouse and their healthy companion without hesitation. In fact, not only don’t we have a problem with it but neither does “Facilities Regulation,” the ruling body for Assisted Living in Rhode Island. If the healthy companion has made this decision with a complete understanding that he’s moving into a dedicated and secure environment and that he is not provided the access code (there is staff on duty 24 h0urs a day to insure he can come and go as he wishes), that’s acceptable. It’s acceptable but is it necessary?
I won’t repeat the appalling statistics that reflects the toll that “at home” caregiving takes on caregivers and it’s hard not to imagine how they might welcome a break from this mission and how their quality of life would improve? Deciding to now move into a dedicated environment where you may find yourself living with as many as 30 Alzheimer’s patients, instead of just one, could be quite a challenge.
The bigger question is what will happen to the demented love one in the absence of their caregiving companion or spouse? Remember that the number one thing they look to their caregiver (all caregivers) for is to feel safe. Professionals understand that and that’s why new arrivals receive the special TLC they do. It’s also why we learn all about their background and history so we really get to know about them and the life they led.
Naturally, even though the spouse or companion decides not to live in the community, they are free to be a part of their loved ones life every day. Perhaps they want to be there for lunch or dinner daily, perhaps they want to be there to help with activities or go on outings if that’s appropriate. In short, we want all the family members to be part of their loved ones life.
There’s no question that whatever decision your family makes, there are going to be adjustments for both parties. Although she is now safe in a dedicated environment, she may be wondering where her man is? An experienced staff that understands how important it is to support them as a couple, can help. Meanwhile, he may be experiencing guilt, frustration and even a sense of failure. Once again, it’s important for the staff in the community and you as a supportive family to insure the spouse at home feels needed and that they still have a purpose in their loved ones life.
To separate or not to separate, that is the question. In coming up with the best answer I would be sure to look at it from every possible angle and decide what would be best for for both. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.


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