There is no place like home. Often, planning and adjustments within the home make the difference between the ability or inability to manage at home. Although some solutions seem obvious, some are not so obvious to a novice caregiver. In addition, psychological denial of the reality of circumstances related to the disease, on the part of the person with Alzheimer’s, as well as the caregiver, can become a factor. This often makes it difficult for the caregiver to recognize the degree of decline in someone who has always been so independent. This difficulty can become even worse when the person who has Alzheimer’s disease does not realize, or will not accept, his or her own limitations. The assistance of a professional geriatric care manager could be extremely valuable.
Care Manager or Care Advocate
A Geriatric Care Manager (sometimes referred to as an Aging Life Care Professional or Professional Health Care Advocate) is a professional who can assist in the management of all, or some, of the care decisions for a person who has Alzheimer’s disease. A geriatric care manager, who is often a nurse or a social worker, can assess the situation, connect the caregiver with appropriate services, and then oversee every aspect of care on an ongoing basis.
Typically, a geriatric care manager will first meet with the person living with Alzheimer’s disease and his or her family to discuss the needs in their unique situation. The care manager will assess the daily living needs of the patient, then will draft a plan of care outlining what services will be provided when, by whom, and at what cost. Once these services are in place, the care manager is able to monitor them on a regular basis. A care manager can sometimes be found through:
- Aging Life Care Association (www.aginglifecare.org)
- Alliance of Professional Health Advocates (www.aphadvocates.org)
Area Agency on Aging
The local Area Agency on Aging (in Wake County, NC: www.tjcog.org) will assess the needs of a patient with Alzheimer’s and counsel the family regarding the benefits and services available. Many Area Agencies on Aging offer the following services; however, these services may vary among agencies:
Family Caregiver Support Program – Family Caregiver Support Programs may assist with information for family caregivers, help accessing services, support groups, caregiving training, counseling, respite care, and other supplemental services.
Ombudsman Program – The Ombudsman Program serves as the voice of long-term care facility residents and their families by helping to advocate on behalf of facility residents and uphold the residents’ rights and quality of care. The Ombudsman Program investigates complaints by or on behalf of residents in long-term care facilities and educates the public about the rules governing long-term care facilities and related issues.
More popularly known as Meals-on-Wheels (in Wake County, NC: www.wakemow.org). This program delivers a complete home meal to individuals with disabilities and seniors. The cost is nominal, varying from just a few dollars to a donation of the patient’s choosing.
Of note: Increasingly, private businesses unrelated to Meals-on-Wheels are entering the meal prep and delivery business in response to busy working households. If there is resistance to meals-on-wheels, or if there is a need to just streamline the family meal process because of caregiver demands, it may be worthwhile to check into local meal prep providers. In addition, more and more grocery stores are providing home delivery of groceries: a possible convenience and time saver.
State, County, or Municipal Resources
Many cities, towns, and counties provide various programs and support services for senior residents.
Senior Centers - Senior centers provide group-focused activities designed to encourage socialization and recreation.
Transportation Services – If a patient with Alzheimer’s disease needs a ride to a doctor’s appointment, daycare, or elsewhere, a number of public or private groups provide door-to-door transportation. Frequently, these agencies are equipped with full-sized vans and wheelchair accessible vans. Generally, this transportation is provided free of charge or at a minimal cost for the person with Alzheimer’s and his or her caregiver. (In Wake County, NC visit www.gotriangle.org and www.gocary.org).
After obtaining the services of both a geriatric care manager and an Elder Law attorney, a person who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and his or her family should contact the Alzheimer’s Association. “The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research.” They can be contacted at 1-800-272-3900 or on the web at www.alz.org. The phone line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Alzheimer’s Association offers a wide array of services including MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return® program.
MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return® is a nationwide identification, support, and enrollment program that provides assistance when a person with Alzheimer’s disease, or a related dementia, wanders and becomes lost locally or far from home. There is an annually renewable fee for this program, and there may be a charge for the enrollment package.
Assistance is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If an enrollee is missing, one call immediately activates a community support network to help reunite the lost person with his or her caregiver.
MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return® faxes the enrolled person’s information and photo (if provided) to local law enforcement. When the person is found, a citizen or law official calls the 800-number on the identification products and MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return® notifies listed contacts. The nearest Alzheimer’s Association office provides information and support during the search and rescue efforts.
Local chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association provide many services to the family of a patient with Alzheimer’s. They provide information and referral, care consultation, support groups, and education. A local chapter can be found by contacting the Alzheimer’s Association.
Memory Safeguard & Long-Term Care Planning Attorney
When an individual is diagnosed with cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, or another related dementia, his or her family should contact a Cary Elder Law attorney that can assist with Memory Safeguard & Long-Term Care Planning as soon as possible. The Elder Law attorney can help the person with Alzheimer’s and his or her family find their way through the myriad of available services. The Elder Law attorney can assist the patient with preparing legal documents (such as Financial and Health Care Health Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Dementia Directives, and Last Will and Testament). The Elder Law attorney can be instrumental in helping the client create a long-term care plan, qualify for Medicaid or veterans benefits to pay for care, and protect assets from long-term care costs. An Elder Law attorney can be found through the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys at www.naela.org. Be cautious when choosing an Elder Law attorney. Even if an attorney advertises that he or she does Elder Law or Medicaid planning, it may not be his or her area of expertise, or he or she may not have been practicing in this area of the law for very long.
Call us at 919-443-3035. One of our friendly Client Welcome Specialists will be happy to tell you more about The Alzheimer’s Planning Center and our unique Memory Safeguard Planning, to help you determine the best path forward, and to help you take the next steps toward a more secure future and a better life.
 Alzheimer’s Association, About Us, available at https://www.alz.org/about_us_about_us_.asp (last visited Oct. 9, 2017).
 Alzheimer’s Association, Safe Return, available at https://alz.org/care/dementia-medic-alert-safe-return.asp (last visited Oct. 9, 2017).