Spouse with dementia can’t share room in assisted living with well-spouse.
Family Caregiver, Sally in San Antonio, Texas, writes to Ask the Caregiver’s Voice (edited).
Sally: My dad, age 89, has been caring for his wife of many years. During the past two years, he’s been caring for her while living in three assisted living homes until each home says, “She is too much for our services.”
Now Dad has decided to go to an Alzheimer’s care facility where his wife may be cared for.
He reserved a private room and intends to live with her there. Because she will be cared for 24-hours a day, he will have the ability to leave her when he needs to or just wants a break to take advantage of the activities in the adjoining assisted living community. He is quite excited to have more help and some freedom.
Assisted Living: “She is too much for our services.”
The facility he is going to has scheduled a meeting with us (Dad, my brother, and me) to tell Dad that the facility is not for him. They want him to move into the adjoining assisted living apartments and visit her while she’s in a dual-suite with another Alzheimer’s patient.
I had an immediate negative reaction while my brother reacted positively.
I am concerned that both will suffer depression due to the fear and stress accompanying a sudden break. She has never slept apart from him and still knows him and shows her love and needs him. I think he needs to see to her, care for and comfort her, and just be with her. Neither of them have anger or depression now.
I understand many couples do live together while one is still in good mental shape. They want to and do well until the one of them reaches the advanced stages and does not even recognize the other. I also understand that the loving caregiver prevents the onset of depression and fear.
My brother thinks Dad has had too much and we will lose him due to his continuing care of her. Dad is very tired as anyone would be with full-time care. We are tired too because we are the back-up.
Dad has decided to go to an Alzheimer’s care facility where his wife may be cared for.
He reserved a private room and intends to live with her there.
Ask TCV: I agree with your brother…yet I understand your desire to see them together. I recognize your fear of how your dad may (not) cope being apart from his wife.
One option you may want to consider is TIME. Ask the care home if they’d be willing to try a three-month living arrangement with the agreement that you will reevaluate the situation. Remind them that this is a winning proposal for both of you–two residents will immediately fill one of their rooms while fulfilling your Dad’s needs and those of his wife. Who knows? The assisted living community might later thank your dad for sharing this idea!
Sally: I suspect the facility has monetary pursuit in mind. The Director of Sales and Marketing set up the meeting. It would cost us more to place her into the full dorm-type care and for Dad to live in a separate apartment.
Ask TCV: Sally, this may be likely, but it may be more for practical care issues. The staff in the Alzheimer’s unit is trained to work with lower functioning residents and the home’s staff may not be equipped to provide customized care for a well-spouse (this would indeed be sad). Many communities have assisted living and a separate memory care unit to provide more skilled care
Sally: Is it appropriate for the care facility to pursue this? Is it okay for him to say, “No, we go together.” What are the pros and cons?
Ask TCV: It is as appropriate for the assisted living community to pursue their interests as it is for your Dad to pursue his.
What typically happens is caregivers become so exhausted, they place their loved ones and use the time away from the pressures of 24-hour-a-day care to regain their strength and energy. Your dad is the exception. He may also be at the leading edge of a trend where elderly couples want to remain together while the staff of a skilled residential care unit cares for their loved ones.
The reality is not everyone can afford private care and this means that not all rooms are being filled in communities. Creative community ambassadors will find ways to work around families’ unique requests in order to fill rooms and satisfy families’ expressed needs.
My suggestion is to keep looking until you find a place with staff members who appreciate your family’s needs and are willing to work toward a mutually satisfactory outcome.