What Is Memory Care? Here’s Everything You Need To Know.
Nearly everyone knows someone whose life has been affected by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other forms of memory loss. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 6.7 million Americans ages 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. These figures do not consider the number of family members – usually women – who care for loved ones living with dementia.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, disorders grouped under the general term “dementia” are caused by abnormal brain changes. These changes trigger a decline in thinking skills or cognitive abilities, severe enough to impair daily life and independent function. They also affect behavior, feelings and relationships.
What Is Memory Care?
Memory care services for seniors – sometimes called dementia care – provide secure housing and 24-hour specialty care for seniors living with memory loss. Memory care provides life-enhancing services and respectful, dignified support along with research-based programming, activities and therapies. Memory care can be provided in a specialized memory care facility or in a memory care unit within a senior living community that offers multiple levels of care.
Memory care communities (or units) look and feel much like an assisted living community. Most memory residences have multiple areas dedicated to communal activities, such as eating, lounging, playing games, exercising, and engaging in hobbies. There are typically secure, enclosed outdoor areas with paths, gardens, and places to relax.
Typically, people living in memory care do not have severe medical issues other than Alzheimer’s or dementia, but they can no longer safely reside in their own home or with the help of a family member.
What is the difference between memory care, assisted living and nursing homes?
Dementia care facilities are different from assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities (nursing homes). While they all provide 24-hour care, supervision, meals, and support with the activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, and medication management, not all these long-term options provide specialized memory care for dementia patients.
Memory care communities provide research-based care exclusively for seniors living with memory loss. Care focuses on elevating quality of life in a specially designed, secure environment with wayfinding cues, enclosed courtyards, and other features that reduce confusion.
The staff members at memory care communities (often referred to as Alzheimer’s care facilities) receive special training in memory care living, dementia support, and in providing memory-enhancing programming and therapies.
For those receiving specialized care for memory loss, the benefits are many:
- The secure, evidence-based environments a memory care community provides not only ensure resident safety, but they also help prevent wandering while promoting freedom and independence.
- Programs and activities such as gardening, baking, crafting or chair yoga are personalized to each resident’s specific preferences. Resident-driven enrichment goes a long way toward reducing stress and anxiety while enhancing self-esteem.
- From assistance with daily tasks to sharing a smile or lending a compassionate ear, personalized care and support provided by staff members who thoroughly understand memory loss – and the condition’s progression – help residents achieve a sense of fulfillment and purpose.
- Socialization and interaction with others can reinforce connections and relationships while reducing the feelings of isolation that often come with memory loss.
- Dining and nutrition play a significant role in the comfort and happiness of residents living with memory loss. Nutritional needs are deliciously met, respectful help is available if needed, and each meal is an opportunity to forge meaningful bonds.
Memory care also means families can enjoy having a trusted partner in care and the peace of mind that comes from knowing their loved one is safe, happy, well-cared for and loved.
Knowing When Memory Care Is Necessary – It’s Personal.
The decision of when to move into a memory care community will depend on each person’s situation. While many seniors with early-stage dementia can live independently or with some help, those with greater cognitive decline may need help from trained professionals in memory care communities. And because dementia symptoms can vary moment to moment, it’s not easy to determine the exact time for memory care. But there are some common signs that could signal it’s time:
- Wandering outside or becoming lost
- Displaying challenging behaviors like anger and paranoia
- Increased care needs that would better be provided by a professional
- Concern for their safety – and the safety of others
- Difficulty with daily tasks like eating or personal hygiene
- Forgetting to take or difficulty managing prescribed medication(s)
- Falls or recent ER visits
- Increased isolation
- Neglecting finances
How To Choose a Memory Care Community?
Selecting the ideal memory care community for a loved one is undoubtedly a critical choice to make.
Most residences contain a minimum of one eating area, in addition to a variety of shared spaces, including living rooms, game rooms, workout facilities, and spaces for recreational activities. The majority of these facilities have an enclosed courtyard and/or a secure outdoor area with pathways for walking, gardening areas for residents, and seating areas.
Location is one of the most important decisions to consider. Why? Because experts and patient advocates all agree that proximity to friends and family is crucially important when maintaining a high quality of life for someone with dementia. Besides location, here are some other factors to consider when searching for communities:
- A dedicated memory care team
- Family connections: Are families invited to partner in the care planning and daily lives of their loved ones?
- A secure, homelike environment with safe outdoors space
- Meaningful interactions among residents, families and staff
- Life-enhancing memory care programming and specialized training for staff
- Wellness programs specifically tailored to individual abilities and needs
- Is the location near desired hospitals and medical care facilities?
While monthly rent at most memory care communities is all inclusive (accommodations, care, programming, meals), the cost is, not surprisingly, usually higher than independent or assisted living communities. Memory care costs are typically covered with private funds, which can be a concern for many families. The good news: There are ways to help offset costs, including long-term care insurance and Veterans Aid and Attendance programs.
The journey of caregiving for a loved one with dementia is arduous, both mentally and physically. That’s where Cascade Living Group can help. With communities all across the West Coast, we invite you to explore how we’re making memory care a personal and purposeful experience.