Q: Who is going to take care of my spouse with dementia when I can’t?
A: According to the 2020 AARP report, “Caregiving in the U.S.,” over five million family caregivers in the United States are caring for their spouses. Spouses are often of similar ages. As couples grow older, one may lose the ability to care for the other. And when a loved one has dementia, the rapid decline in cognitive and physical health may leave the caregiver spouse overwhelmed. Women are often the caregivers and may find themselves with numerous new responsibilities once handled by the ill spouse. Family members can help the caregiving struggle by making a “care plan.”
Any good plan starts with open and honest family communication. Verbalize the health challenge and identify all the possible resources you are considering. Is private duty care an option? Can family members pitch in? The discussion will need to continue as your loved one’s disease progresses and different needs materialize.
A good care plan for dementia patients also addresses legal considerations. Spouses often assume that they have the legal right to make all decisions for one another. This is often true… until it’s not. Each spouse should have a Durable Power of Attorney with primary and secondary choices named in the document. In Florida, it is recommended you also name a Health Care Surrogate. This is a person you trust to make health decisions on your behalf, in the event you are unable to do so. The final legal piece of your care plan is an Advance Directive (Living Will), a legal document that dictates your wishes when you near the end of life. Other considerations include measures to ensure the spouse with dementia is financially secure.
Taking care of a spouse with dementia is not easy, but careful planning can help you meet the challenge. The Experts in Aging at One Senior Place can assess your situation for free and help you find the resources you need. You are not alone.
One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to AskOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com, call 321-751- 6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging at OneSeniorPlace.com. Brenda Lyle is a Certified Care Manager for One Senior Place.