With nearly 10 million new cases of dementia diagnosed globally each year1, planning for the possibility of developing dementia is increasingly becoming a concern for people who are still in the prime of their lives.
“There are many things that we commonly plan for as we get older, and this is more important than ever given that people are living longer nowadays. Typically, we make provision for our retirement, including financial wellbeing, medical needs and family affairs, however in the event that one develops dementia there are a range of other factors that one should plan for,” says Ivan Oosthuizen, chief executive officer of Livewell Villages, an organisation specialising in dementia care.
“The onset of dementia symptoms, such as cognitive decline and memory loss, are often the first indication that prompt families or individuals to seek medical advice. By the time dementia is diagnosed, it is unfortunately often the case that it has progressed to such an extent that the affected individual is then unable to arrange for themselves the care they will require when their condition has reached an advanced stage.
“For this reason, it is well worth devoting some thought to how you, and your partner, would like decisions affecting your life and care to be handled if one day you are affected by a condition such as Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions that are age-related and associated with cognitive decline. It is important to discuss your wishes with your family, so that they will be in a better position to make the necessary arrangements on your behalf, should the need arise.”
According to Oosthuizen, one of the key considerations should be selecting a trusted person to act on your behalf in legal and financial matters if you are no longer able to attend to these yourself.
“Many people are under the impression that appointing power of attorney is sufficient. However, it is important to note that in the event that one is incapacitated to the point that one is unable to understand this legal arrangement, a power of attorney automatically becomes invalid.
“While power of attorney is sufficient for the early stages of dementia, once cognitive function deteriorates further, then legal curatorship is required for another person to manage your affairs. It is worth taking the time to speak to your legal or financial advisor about how to plan for this possibility. It is also critical to identify who may be the most suitable and trusted individual to fulfil this role if it becomes necessary,” he notes.
Livewell Villages is able to refer families to professional organisations that can assist with considerations such as legal or financial affairs when required. These matters are, however, best attended to earlier while the individual is still able to understand the full implications of the decisions to be taken and meaningfully contribute towards planning for their future.
“When planning for the potential need for full time care in later life, there are a range of important aspects to be taken into account. People with dementia require specialised care, and it is worthwhile visiting care facilities to investigate the options available. It is worth considering, for example, such issues as the availability of frail care, access to occupational therapy, the ratio of carers to residents, the comfort of the accommodation provided and the extent to which it is personalised for each resident.
“When it comes to planning for dementia, however, the care provided should be structured in such a way as to foster and optimise the residents’ capabilities. Trained healthcare staff who understand the needs of people living with dementia and are equipped to provide the highly specialised care they require is of paramount importance when considering the merits of residential dementia care facilities, as well as the safety, security, comfort and amenities that the care facility is able to provide,” Oosthuizen advises.
“A visit to a prospective care facility, such as the Livewell Villages, can provide a good indication of the culture of care of the organisation. Questions to consider include whether the residents are well taken care of, free to walk around and enjoy the gardens accompanied by a carer, how many carers there are relative to the number of residents, and whether the interior has been designed with due consideration for the safety of frail elderly residents,” Oosthuizen adds.
“A lot can also be inferred from the policies on welcoming visitors and keeping families involved in the decisions relating to their loved one’s care and informed about their daily lives. At Livewell Villages, the families of our residents play an integral role and can remain actively involved, if they wish. Whether they frequently visit their loved one at Livewell, or if they live further away, families are regularly kept updated with messages and photographs from our Quality of Life Leaders.”
Planning for one’s own assisted living in years to come may also involve making arrangements for one’s beloved pets. Livewell Villages appreciate the value that pets contribute to residents’ quality of life and many people therefore bring their pets with them when moving in, although both villages have a number of furry companions that the residents lavish affection on.
“We find that, over and above these considerations, the people who join our extended Livewell family appreciate the warmth of the relationships we share. This is not something that is easy to define, it really has to be experienced first-hand to be understood.
“It may not yet be possible to predict if one will develop dementia in later life, but it is certainly possible to make preparations on practical aspects that would ensure comfort, quality of care and personal dignity should such an eventuality unfortunately present itself,” Oosthuizen concludes.
Reference and further reading:
- Dementia Fact Sheet (World Health Organization) http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia
- For further information on Livewell Villages’ service offering please visit https://livewell.care/