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Alzheimer's Caregivers: The Pros and Cons of Placing Your Loved One in a Facility

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Author's Note: This post assumes there is a decent, affordable facility within a reasonable driving distance. It also assumes that the person with Alzheimer's is in the mid to late stages of the disease, and high quality caregiving at home is becoming increasingly more challenging, if not impossible.

CONS

People living with Alzheimer's (as well as most people with other chronic conditions) typically want to remain in their own homes. They want to be in a familiar environment and close to their loved ones.

Family members are sometimes adamantly opposed to placing their loved one in a facility. Some view this almost as a criminal act. In many cases, it's even more difficult because if the person with Alzheimer's staunchly objects, family member(s) may feel incredibly guilty.

In addition, the caregiver may have promised his or her loved one many years before to never put them in any kind of facility for any reason. Breaking that promise would be extraordinarily difficult. Again, if the caregiver decides to go ahead with placement, he or she would probably end up riddled with guilt.

Caregivers may feel they can provide care that is superior to that delivered in a good facility due to their love and devotion. Although personnel in a facility may indeed care about their residents, they will probably not have the depth of love that family members feel.

Finally, financial issues need to considered. There may be high quality facilities near you that are out of your price range. In this case, you may have no other option than caring for the person at home.

PROS

It takes a large team to care for people living with Alzheimer's, especially those in the mid to later stages. They need a doctor on call 24 hours a day. They need a nurse available at all times. They need aides, a social worker, activity professionals, cooks and laundresses. And they need to be around other people for social stimulation. They need 24/7 supervision and they need to be in a safe, secure environment.

Providing for all of these needs can be done, but it's a full-time job. In many cases, the primary caregiver has to work either full- or part-time and thus can't provide the needed care.

The decision to place a loved one in a care facility can be agonizing, but caregivers need to consider the following: 1) Long-term care placement can be the most loving choice for their loved one and 2) Caring for the loved one is probably seriously affecting their own physical and mental health and well being. People simply can't be good caregivers if they are exhausted and burned out all the time.

You may be hesitant because you think the person will never forgive you for placing them in a facility. Most people with mid- late stage Alzheimer's, however, soon adjust and even forget they've been moved at all.

Another consideration is that if you are trying to provide 24/7 care, you probably won't be calm enough or have the time to really enjoy being with your loved one.

No two cases are alike and you will probably find that not all of the information in this article applies to you. You may also have some pros and cons unique to you and your loved one. So revise this information to match your own personal circumstances.

Deciding what to do can be nerve-wracking and heartbreaking, but it's something you will probably need to do at some point. Take a step back and try to be objective. Consult with friends and other family members. You may also want to talk with your attorney, spiritual leader and/or your physician and your loved one's physician (if they are not the same).

After these consultations, study your own list of pros and cons and take some time to make the best decision you can. And once you make that decision don't turn back.

Do any of you want to comment on how you arrived at your decision regarding this issue?

Marie Marley is the award-winning author of Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer's and Joy. Her website contains a wealth of information for Alzheimer's caregivers.