A young senior man in a blue sweater and a woman in a pink sweater facing the camera. He has his hands on her right shoulder.

We make decisions throughout our entire lives, almost unceasingly. They can be minor, like what to have for dinner or what route to take home from work. And they can be major, like whether to put in an offer on a house or whether to accept that shiny new job offer.

Regardless of the scope, freedom of choice is something that we take for granted. Our ability to choose dictates the trajectory of our days, years, and lives, and it’s something that makes us uniquely us.

So when there’s news of a life-altering diagnosis, like Dementia, it’s understandable, and only fair, for the person living with a type of this disease to not only have a say in their future care but to also have input in day-to-day decision-making.

Today, we will highlight the importance and value of collaborative care and involving a loved one living with Dementia in decision-making. Doing so will greatly improve the quality of life for the person living with the disease — and their loved ones.

First, one of the most overwhelming and often daunting considerations that the person will have to make is how they’d like their current and future care to look.

When Should You Devise a Care Plan?

Whether it’s for you or a loved one who has received a Dementia diagnosis, we believe developing a plan for care as soon as a diagnosis has been made is best.

We understand that this can be challenging. Discussing a diagnosis like Dementia and deciding the future can be incredibly difficult. But it’s an important hurdle to tackle head-on. For close friends and family, knowing how the person sees their care evolving as the disease progresses and understanding their wants and wishes throughout can prove invaluable in keeping them as safe and comfortable as can be.

In addition to talking with your close family, we also recommend connecting with compassionate Dementia Care providers — like us at Integracare Home Care — in the early stages of the disease to learn about the professional care options that are available to you.

Developing an effective and compassionate Dementia Care plan, with expert insight and closely following a diagnosis, will empower the person who’s living with Dementia to have a pivotal say in their care.

An up-close photo of seniors holding hands atop a wooden table

How Does Dementia Affect Decision-Making?

It’s incorrect to assume that every individual living with Dementia will lack the ability to participate in making decisions about their care. Of course, symptoms will vary based on the person and the type of Dementia they’re living with. But in the early stages, most people living with Dementia will still be able to understand their options and actively participate in decision-making (though they may experience mild forgetfulness, difficulty in focusing or trouble with their concentration).

As the symptoms advance, these abilities may start to fade; Dementia can affect the area of the brain responsible for our recollection, understanding of, and processing of information — all vital components of decision-making. This can become challenging or even distressing for the individual and their loved ones, so it is highly beneficial to formulate a care plan in the early stages of the diagnosis.

Preparing and creating a Dementia Care plan following a diagnosis also benefits family members and loved ones. Any type of Dementia throws up a series of unknowns. Having a handle on and an understanding of the future care of a loved one living with a type of the disease and knowing what to expect will help resolve a few of these question marks.

What Might a Care Plan Include?

A plan that’s devised at home may include:

Allocating a Trusted Person

You may want to decide upon a trusted person, or persons, who can make decisions on the individual’s behalf. These may include decisions pertinent to their health and care, as well as financial decisions.

A thorough care plan will ideally have every angle covered. But in case of an irregularity where something that wasn’t prepared for presents itself, and at a time where the individual cannot make decisions themselves, they will know that a trusted person will make the best judgement on their behalf.

If you have a large family, and depending on your family dynamic, reiterating these wishes to family members and close friends will help ensure that wishes are met along the way.

Connecting with Legal Support

While the specifics will vary based on the location, you may need to talk with a lawyer to ensure that a trusted friend or family member can step in at any time to take over decision-making processes. Further, the person may feel more at ease if their wishes are formally lodged.

Talking About Likes and Dislikes

We find that it’s always beneficial to talk with your loved one about their likes and aversions: things that make their day more joyful and comfortable. For example, you might not have known that they enjoy the routine of listening to a particular radio station in the evenings, that they dislike a certain food, or that they prefer a specific shade of lipstick or brand of shampoo.

Making a Plan for Care

You will also want to discuss options for professional care. While the person who’s living with Dementia will be able to live independently in the early stages — though they may require assistance with medication or financial management, for example — a time will come when round-the-clock care is best for their safety, well-being, and quality of life.

This may involve discussing how different family members may assume part-time Caregiving roles. It may also mean securing professional help from an expert home care company.

At Integracare Home Care, we work with our Clients and their families to create a Client-centred health care plan. Care plans are carefully tailored, taking into consideration your loved one’s personal needs, by talking with them and with their GP.

Our partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Toronto means that all of our professional Personal Support Workers and Caregivers receive ongoing, current training, arming them with the right resources and knowledge to support and care for their Clients throughout every stage of the disease.

Our individualized healthcare plans allow us to take a collaborative methodology when it comes to our Clients’ care. Our collaborative care meets their in-the-moment musts and will evolve and adjust whenever necessary as symptoms change.

A senior couple hugging in a living room. He wears a green striped shirt; she’s wearing a white shirt.

What Is Collaborative Care?

Collaborative care, also known as multidisciplinary care, refers to a practice wherein healthcare professionals work in tandem with one another to formulate and deliver well-rounded care that meets their clients’ mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional needs.

This will look different for every person based on their personal requirements and wishes. As your home healthcare provider of choice, we pride ourselves on our collaborative approach to care that works in tandem with regular appointments with specialists and doctors.

We offer the highest quality home care from caring and compassionate Caregivers who can help with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). This care can expand to live-in or more regular in-home Dementia Care as the disease progresses and the person living with Dementia requires a higher level of support.

In addition to helping with ADLs, we also provide at-home Massage Therapy with a Registered Massage Therapist, Wound Care (with a Registered Nurse who’s trained in the nuances of Dementia Care), Physiotherapy and Patient Advocacy — whereby our Caregivers can visit a Client at home, in the hospital or at a care facility to advocate for them and to fill in any gaps in their care. This not only helps keep our Client safe and comfortable, but it can be of great benefit to family members and loved ones, too.

Statistically, a collaborative approach to care has better clinical outcomes, higher client satisfaction and improved quality of life.

These are major decisions that are pertinent to the future care of the person living with Dementia, involving your family’s role and any legal matters. But it’s just as important to involve your loved one in decision-making around more minor daily issues, too.

Decision-Making and Dementia on a Day-to-Day Basis

Decision-making is considered a ‘high-level cognitive process.’ If you remove this type of mental exercise by making decisions for your loved one without their input, you’re taking away the opportunity to flex their mental muscles. It’s also possible that you’re reducing the enjoyment they get out of their day. For example, you may assume that they want some fresh air, so you take them outside into the yard when they really want to stay cozy indoors.

With that, keep in mind that decision-making should be encouraged as much as possible in terms of day-to-day choice. We understand this can be hard, especially if you’re the primary Caregiver and balancing multiple plates at once. However, there are a few ways to streamline the process, making things a little easier for both you and your loved one who might be struggling with decision-making and Dementia symptoms that make choice difficult.

Simplify Tasks but Still Offer Options

During the middle stages of symptoms, simplifying daily tasks will prove beneficial. This not only expedites processes, making events less stressful and frustrating, but it allows the person living with Dementia to partake in decision-making in a controlled way.

For example, you can ask what they’d like for dinner, but with pared-back options to make deciding easier; you could set out two outfit ideas, which is much more manageable than offering a whole closet of options.

Readjust Communication Techniques

It’s also important to remember that come the middle stage, when the person may begin to forget faces or experience more serious memory challenges, how you go about communicating with individuals living with Dementia requires some adjustments. This is both in how questions are posed, and how options are given. Some techniques include:

  • Using short sentences.
  • Asking one question at a time.
  • Using grounding words or names.
  • Leaving ample time for a question or a request to be understood.

Realize that as time passes, the person may have difficulty understanding and processing information in the moment; however, they still have emotion and feeling — respect and encourage this by looking for visual cues involving their body language and facial expression in response to a question.

A senior couple on a grey couch watching a laptop and smiling. He wears an orange fleece; she wears a tan sweater vest.

Involving an Individual Living with Dementia and Decision-Making Has Emotional Benefits

Involving the individual living with Dementia in making significant decisions about their care and daily choices throughout their symptoms are both important for their emotional well-being.

Decision-Making Instills Individualism

A care plan is a uniquely personal thing. For this reason, decision-making that’s pertinent to someone’s future care mustn’t be done without their say.

Similarly, having the option of what clothes to wear, what to have for dinner, what television show to watch together, or where to enjoy your morning coffee and beyond are all personal choices that are unique to us. Helping a loved one who’s living with Dementia be able to preserve the option of choice and decision-making is essential to helping them retain a sense of self — which will be a joy for both them and you.

Participating in Decision Making Buoys Self Confidence

As we touched upon above, we make decisions every single day. To have this ability stripped away from us may cause anger, distress and frustration. By encouraging the person living with Dementia to play a key role in decision-making, their ideas and opinions are validated. Making choices helps retain feelings of adulthood, independence, and confidence.

Connect with Us for Professional and Compassionate Home Care

We believe that everyone deserves the highest quality home care. Our private health care services are composed of a multi-faceted, carefully assembled team of specialists who are ready to meet their Clients’ unique and personal needs today. We can work with you and your loved one to create an exceptional and dynamic care plan with a sliding scale of services that evolve and change with our Clients’ symptoms, while remaining in line with their wishes — keeping them safe and at ease.

To learn more about how the team at Integracare Home Care can help, connect with us today. We’re always happy to answer any questions you might have.