Coping with Alzheimer’s in a Hospice

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grandfather with alzheimers in a hospiceAs an engineer, Jose-Luis Montiel dedicated most of his professional life to improving public works and the highway system in his native Nicaragua. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in civil engineering, Mr. Montiel returned to Nicaragua. His experience developing infrastructures led to a unique opportunity late in his career. When Mr. Montiel transitioned to development banking, his new career path led him and his entire family to the United States.

In 1969, Mr. Montiel and his wife and eight children moved to the D.C. area. Several members of the large family have remained in the area, including Mr. Montiel himself, who still lives in McLean. After retiring, he remained active and independent for many years. Just a year ago, his children began noticing that their father was suffering from increasing memory loss.

One of his daughters, Maria Koropecky, recalls, “When my father developed severe memory problems, it became dangerous for him to live alone.” The family knew they needed help. They began looking for a safe environment for Mr. Montiel to live while they made important care decisions.

When Mr. Montiel’s family learned that the nearby Sunrise of McLean offered short-term, respite stays, they decided that their father would move there temporarily. Their plan changed quickly. “Initially, we intended for my father to live at the Sunrise for a few months while we made other arrangements, but it became obvious that he was getting the care he needed there,” says Maria.

One of the primary reasons for their decision was the highly-qualified staff members who worked in the Reminiscence Program, the Sunrise program dedicated entirely to the care of patients with Alzheimer’s and other memory disorders. Then-coordinator of Reminiscence Services, Kate Caldwell, was instrumental in helping Mr. Montiel settle into his new community.

When Kate made a career change and founded ElderTree, LLC, a geriatric care management firm specializing in Alzheimer’s and memory impairment, Maria knew that she wanted her to remain a part of her father’s caregiving team. ElderTree offers consultations, placement, assessments, written care plans, and long-term care management for seniors and their families. For the Montiel family, Kate’s expert advice continues to be integral to caregiving decisions.

Maria explains, “I visit my father often and I know him well, but I will never know someone with dementia as well as Kate does.” She continues, “Kate helps me put everything into perspective. She helps me see what to focus on in terms of my father’s needs.” Tapping in to her years of experience in elder care, Kate is able to offer recommendations, advice, and support to Maria and her family.

Caregiving for a relative with memory loss can be stressful, confusing, and difficult. Maria states simply, “You can’t begin to even imagine what this is like until you experience it.” However, assembling a team of qualified professionals to help can make all the difference. “Kate has been working in the eldercare field for so long, so I know she understands, and I know that I want to tap into all that expertise,” Maria concludes.

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