In America’s long-term care facilities, a growing number of residents struggle with cognitive declines, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The number has grown over the past 20 years, giving rise to memory care centers for elderly patients. Dementia and Alzheimer’s represent significant challenges for caregivers, who may require specialized training and experience to provide competent care for individuals afflicted with them. In addition to nursing home insurance, the best way that long-term care facilities to manage risks associated with Alzheimer’s care is to provide caregivers with important information about the disease.
Alzheimer’s Disease: A Growing Concern for Caregivers
According to statistics compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 50% of nursing home residents are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Another study puts the figure even higher, suggesting that as many as 60% of nursing home residents struggle with some form of dementia. In both cases, one fact is clear: nursing home caregivers face an onslaught of patients who demand specialized care. It is projected that as many as 7 million more caregivers will be needed to support the explosive growth of America’s aging population by 2029.
There are many risks associated with caring for Alzheimer’s patients. These patients may have:
- Difficulties establishing routines.
- Communication gaps.
- Higher levels of assistance needed with daily care tasks.
- Delusions or other negative cognitive effects.
Elderly people with dementia are also at a higher risk for elopement, or wandering away from care facilities. Residents who elope may succumb to environmental exposure, become injured through slips or falls, or can even die from injuries sustained outside the protective care of their nursing homes. Such risks expose nursing homes and their staff to significant liabilities, resulting in claims against nursing home insurance policies.
Supporting Caregivers with Best Practices
Caring for residents with Alzheimer’s disease presents unique challenges in the nursing home environment. To better protect these individuals, and to support the protections of nursing home insurance, there are several steps these facilities and their staffs can take.
First, safe living spaces are critical. Patients with cognitive declines tend to be at a greater risk for injuries. To reduce incidents, facilities may consider:
- Improving lighting.
- Eliminating trip hazards, such as uneven transitions in walking areas or exposed cables/wiring in common areas.
- Ensuring windows and doors are kept locked to reduce elopement risks.
- Storing chemicals out of reach to prevent patients from accidently drinking harmful substances.
- Bolstering monitoring and facility security features to reduce injury/elopement risks.
Alzheimer’s patients, particularly those in the latter stages of the disease, require supportive care at higher levels than other residents. Declines in mobility necessitate that caregivers provide comfortable accommodations. Paying attention to the tiny details, such turning bedridden patients frequently, monitoring room temperatures, and protecting fragile skin from damage or bedsores can greatly improve the comfort levels patients experience.
Feeding also presents certain risks. Residents with dementia may shun food or beverages or may have higher sensitivities to food temperatures, seasoning, and other considerations. As the disease progresses, issues with feeding can lead to malnourishment and its associated health complications. Alzheimer’s patients may also have a higher incidence of choking. Caregivers must be aware of these risks; to mitigate them, it is important to:
- Eliminate distractions during mealtimes.
- Have the flexibility to take breaks during meals.
- Serving foods and beverages at room temperatures to avoid temperature sensitivities.
Communication is a critical aspect of caring for patients with dementia. Difficulties in communication require unique approaches for caregivers and for family members. Best practices to improve communication include:
- Avoiding startling patients by approaching them from the front.
- Verbalizing actions to improve awareness of what is being done and why.
- Giving residents time to process their responses.
- Avoiding multiple questions at once.
- Using a calm, relaxed attitude to help put residents at ease.
Nursing home insurance protects facilities and their staff from a broad range of risks. Caring for Alzheimer’s patients is associated with many unique or unexpected risks. With this insurance and with adherence to industry best practices, staff members can continue to provide supportive, competent delivery of care for those struggling with cognitive declines.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at (877) 226-1027.