For each person, planning quality of life is different and deeply personal. One person may define the quality of life as enjoying the beauty of a sunset. Another person
may describe it as sharing a holiday celebration with family; worshipping at a church, synagogue or mosque; playing a game of bridge; washing a car; listening to music or solving a crossword puzzle. Each person has a unique standard of what has value and what gives quality to life.
Each person’s definition of quality of life may include different factors such as:
- Social relationships
- Religious beliefs and spirituality
- Cultural values
- The ability to think, make decisions and have control in one’s daily life
- Physical and mental health
- Living arrangements
- A sense of community
- Financial and economic circumstances.
For those of us who participate in the lives of people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias should understand that, despite changes and loss of abilities, individuals with the disease can still find pleasure and experience satisfaction.
Planning quality of life … keeping seniors engaged
There is no doubt that engaged seniors are more alert and happy. Our home aides are
trained to be good conversationalists and to work on keeping seniors involved in multiple ways consistently.
Our minds, just like our bodies, need exercise to remain flexible and agile. And just as weak muscles increase the risk of falls; an under-exercised brain can lead to confusion, depression and even an increased risk of developing Dementia.
Seniors with dementia
Influencing your quality of life:
As the disease progresses, you will lose abilities that you may consider important to the quality of life. Some people think that quality of life is lost once a person is diagnosed with dementia. Others feel that quality of life can be maintained well into the disease process. The disease, however, does not remove your ability to appreciate, respond to and experience feelings such as anger, fear, joy, love or sadness.
While your symptoms are mild to moderate, you will likely know what gives you happiness and contributes to your sense of well-being. You might like to seek help to adapt to changing abilities and participate in meaningful activities. Remember that once you can no longer make choices or decisions, caregivers, family members or health-care providers will need to make decisions for yours, so it is important to talk to them and let them know your wishes.
For family members and caregivers
Determining someone else’s quality of life: Determining how another person would define the quality of life is not easy, but it is crucial. Avoid imposing your personal values and interpretation of quality of life on someone else. The abilities and interests of someone with dementia will change over time. However, every effort should be made, especially as the disease progresses, to provide an optimum quality of life for the person. Recognizing her abilities, interests and life-long skills helps to maintain and enhance her quality of life.
Effects of caregiving:
Many caregivers derive a sense of satisfaction and growth from caregiving but may have difficulty balancing their needs and those of the person with the disease. The tasks and responsibilities of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can have powerful and adverse effects on the quality of life of family members and caregivers. The degree to which their quality of life is affected may be influenced by:
- Nature (parent, spouse, friend, lover) and strength of the relationship between the person with dementia and the caregiver
- The personalities of the person with Alzheimer’s disease and the caregiver, and the ability of each to adapt to changes caused by the disease
- The psychological, physical, spiritual and financial resources of the caregiver
- Other day-to-day roles and expectations, such as being an employee, parent, business person, volunteer
- The caregiver’s location and place of residence, about that of the person with Alzheimer’s disease
- The opinions, views, and demands of people outside the caregiving relationship
- A health-care system that seems to be placing more responsibilities on caregivers while providing less and less support.
Young children in a caregiver’s family may find their quality of life affected, as they may need support and attention that the caregiver is unable to give.
As family members and caregivers, you need to find the balance between your quality of life and the quality of life of the person you are caring for. If you can’t, those close to you should help you recognize this need for balance. If you don’t find the balance, the quality of life of both you and the person with the disease may suffer.