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In honour of World Alzheimer’s Day, here’s a guide highlighting five important areas to pay attention to when caring for a parent with dementia.
Around 1 in 10 elderly Singaporeans (aged 60 and above) suffer some form of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common form of the condition. Even more worrisome, the incidence rate is expected to nearly double by 2030.
When an elderly parent falls victim to Alzheimer’s the burden of care falls upon the adult children of the family. Depending on how severe the disease is, taking care of a parent with dementia can be a taxing and stressful affair.
21 September has been designated as World Alzheimer’s Day, and as a small contribution to the cause, here’s a basic guide highlighting five important areas to pay attention to when caring for a parent whose mental faculties are eroding.
1. Use ElderShield Life and CareShield Life to defray care costs
Alzheimer’s becomes more debilitating as it advances, and late-stage dementia patients may be so incapicitated that they require advanced care. This would entail having a caretaker to look after them constantly, helping them with essential everyday activities.
To help defray the expenses of hiring a caretaker, families can tap on CareShield Life or its predecessor, ElderShield Life, which are national insurance programmes that offer monthly payouts for persons with severe disabilities.
Here’s how much each scheme pays out.
S$600 per month from 2020, increasing annually until age 67 or a claim made.
Payouts continue as long as severe disability remains.
ElderShield 300: S$300 per month for up to 5 years
ElderShield 400: S$400 per month for up to 6 years
Premiums for both CareShield Life and ElderShield Life are fully payable via Medisave. If your parent is running low on Medisave funds, you can apply to take over the premium payment using your own Medisave account, or perform a top up.
In any case, rest assured that no one will lose their coverage even if they are unable to pay their premiums. However, note that it’s a good idea to pay the premiums anyway, as doing so will help maintain payout levels for those who need them.
2. Make your home safer
There are several ways to make your home safer if you have a parent with Alzheimer’s. The key idea is to reduce or eliminate hazards and dangers, while preventing actions that could lead to harm or compromise safety.
Here are some suggestions to consider. Remember to modify or add to the list below according to your own circumstances.
- Install locks on windows and doors to prevent your loved one from wandering outside alone.
- Light up pathways and put up signages to aid them in moving around independently, such as to the toilet.
- Reduce fall risk by installing grab bars, shower seats, and non-slip flooring in the toilet.
- Keep dangerous items hidden, such as sharp objects or poisonous substances (detergents, insecticide, medicines, etc). You may also wish to switch to non-toxic household products for added safety,
- Have a set of spare keys in case your loved one accidentally locks you out.
- Declutter and create clear pathways free of obstacles and hazardous items.
- Remove or tape down carpets and rugs to prevent tripping.
- Install soft-closing drawers and cabinet doors to prevent injuries.
3. Establish routines and stick to them
As memory loss and brain changes can create stress, confusion and irrational behaviour, Alzheimer’s patients have been found to benefit from familiarity in their environment.
Having a daily schedule reduces aggression, restlessness and agitation on the part of your parent, as it removes uncertainty from the equation. Caregivers and other family members also benefit – they will be better able to anticipate needs and will know what to expect.
When caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s, try to establish routines around:
- Bath times, mealtimes and sleeping hours. Avoiding daytime naps can help stave off late-day confusion (sundowning).
- Exercise and leisure activities.
- Winding down before bed at the end of the day.
- Trips outside (if appropriate, and under supervision)
4. Get legal affairs in order
Not only is Alzheimer’s incurable, it is also progressive – the disease worsens over time. This means that there is a chance your parent may become mentally unfit, which could have legal implications down the line.
It is vital to get their legal affairs in order as soon as possible, and while they are capable of giving acknowledgement and consent.
Help them create a will, and once duly endorsed and completed, transfer the will for safekeeping with a legal firm or a bank safety deposit box.
Another important step is to establish Lasting Power of Attorney, which essentially empowers you to act on your loved one’s behalf in regards to assets and financial matters.
This is important in helping your parent safeguard their assets and possessions against scammers or individuals who may seek to exploit their vulnerable state.
5. Seek help and support
Recognise that caring for someone with dementia is no easy task. Caregivers can often neglect themselves and abandon their own needs, leading to burnout and negative consequences for mental health.
Thus, remember to seek help and support when caring for a parent with dementia. Join caregiver support groups to connect with others in the same situation, gain insights and advice, and exchange knowledge and experiences.
Consider utilising professional caregiving services to relieve you periodically, giving you the chance to take a break and decompress from the strain of caregiving.
Also, if CareShield Life and ElderShield payouts are not sufficient to cover financial needs, don’t be afraid to seek additional financial assistance. A good place to start is the Agency for Integrated Care website, which contains several helpful resources such as information on grants and subsidies.