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Caring for Family Members Suffering from Dementia

Monday, September 5, 2011 - 5:54pm

EL PASO – When should you consider professional care, even a nursing home, to keep a loved one suffering from dementia safe?

Experts say caring for dementia patients is no easy task. It takes a lot of patience and around the clock attention, something many families can't provide on their own.

The memory support unit inside the Ambrosio Guillen State Veterans Home in Northeast El Paso cares for about 60 patients suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia.

A staff of nurses monitor the patients around the clock.

Activities Director Willie Brown says it can be a very tough decision to place a loved one in a long term care facility like this.

"A lot of time people make promises to their spouse that they will never put their loved ones in a nursing home," he said.

But when you're dealing with a disease like Alzheimer's, it can be hard, even dangerous, to keep your loved one at home.

"One of the classic symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer's is wandering, getting lost, not being able to find their way home, and not recognizing people."

Brown says the average person simply doesn't have the resources to care for an Alzheimer's patient 24/7, but his facility does.All of the doors leading out of the memory support unit are armed with alarms, so if a patient happens to wander out, staff members will know about it right away.

Nurse Sandi Conway says it's so important to keep the patients active.

"We take them to the casinos, we take them to Golden Corral, on rides with the transporter, we take them for haircuts," she said.

Keeping their minds busy, while also keeping them safe. Conway can also see why it's so hard for some families to let go, but she says when you can no longer care for your loved one, it's something you have to do.

"It takes a little guts to place someone in a facility where you have to turn your back and trust someone to take care of you mother and your father,” she said. “It's hard to do."

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