Most cognitive impairments like memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s are progressive. This means that, unfortunately, they will almost certainly get worse over time and require long-term care. While things like dementia care can feel like a depressing condition, it is important to remember that your loved one can still experience many times of happiness.
Dementia and other cognitive impairments including memory loss can actually be slowed down or paused for periods of time. These things are contingent on the right healthcare scenario, which usually means a memory care facility.
The level of care that today’s memory care facilities provide can really help residents maintain their quality of life, even as their cognitive impairment worsens. They offer 24/7 care from professional staff members with specialized training for the care of those suffering from these conditions.
Unfortunately, it can be quite challenging to navigate your options and choose the best memory care for your loved one. Every facility and community is different and all have different pros and cons. You should learn as much as you can about memory care before deciding on a facility.
What Does Memory Care Really Mean?
When we think of what happens to the body as someone reaches old age, most of us think of symptoms such as arthritis, poor hearing, reduced eyesight, and wrinkles. However, cognitive decline in some form is also common among the elderly. When you add in a condition like dementia, this decline can start having severe effects.
Those suffering from reduced eyesight can easily get some stronger prescription glasses, but those with Alzheimer’s or dementia don’t have an option for treatment. This makes the need for specialized care even more important.
These two conditions are the most common in memory care facilities across the country. These communities are specifically designed to provide care for seniors dealing with dementia, Alzheimer’s and other cognitive impairments.
Since these conditions can cause a wide range of symptoms at different levels of severity, memory care facilities are prepared to handle many different needs. Basic services like meal prep, laundry, and housekeeping should obviously be included, but specialized medical care and a high level of assistance with daily activities is also essential.
Certain activities and therapies can also be used to promote a connection between the individual and their interests and favorite hobbies.
Some senior living communities focus solely on memory care due to the unique challenges these conditions create. Others, like continuing care retirement communities, have a memory care unit set in its own area.
Memory care communities typically use design elements that, according to research, help to reduce stress levels in those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Circular layouts, boosted natural lighting, and memory boxes are some of the most common of these elements.
Experts say that about 6 out of 10 Alzheimer’s patients have the tendency to “wander,” so memory care facilities must take precautions to keep residents from exiting the premises and getting lost. These precautions typically include heavy supervision by the staff, security alarms on exterior doors, and frequent safety checks.
Important Things to Know About Memory Care
If you’re still not completely comfortable with your understanding of memory care and what it entails, take a look at these important things to know.
Improving Quality of Life and Ensuring Safety
Memory care communities are known to provide an improved quality of life for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients in a number of different ways. In general, residents in these facilities take less medication, have a reduced risk of falls and injuries, show improved wellness and overall nutrition, enjoy more independence and take fewer trips to the hospital.
As much as 75 percent of residents in memory care communities experience a slowed or stalled the progression of symptoms.
Programs to Handle Behavioral Issues
Most memory care facilities also provide therapeutic programs to improve memory impairment issues, wandering frequency, and other common behavioral issues. In turn, they boost the quality of life of their residents.
Advanced programs that provide personalized therapy for each unique individual are especially successful. Memory care facilities are also adding programming to handle every different stage of these diseases for even more success.
A common misconception about memory care units is that they isolate seniors with these memory-related conditions. This is simply not true. While the memory care units may be separated from a larger senior living community, the specialized staff makes sure that residents stay engaged as much as possible.
The Family’s Needs
Peace of mind is an amazing thing and knowing that your loved one is receiving highly-skilled 24-hour care provides just that. Memory care facilities usually offer frequent outreach opportunities for the families of their residents. These days, memory care is not just for the individual dealing with cognitive impairment, they also serve the needs of that individual’s family.
Worth the Extra Money
Although assisted living care can be significantly cheaper than memory care, these facilities provided a much higher level of service to provide specialized support for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. The added fees go toward this highly-effective care and therapy. Also, unlike assisted living homes, memory care facilities provide 24/7 care for all residents.
Making Your Decision
All quality memory care facilities offer outreach and education for caregivers and families. However, it is still essential that you do your own research before deciding that a particular facility is the right one for your loved one.
Common Questions For Those Considering Memory Care
Deciding whether memory care is the best option for your loved one can be very difficult. It is a difficult time, but this process is all about making life for your loved one as enjoyable as possible. Here are some of the common questions asked by people in your situation:
When should I start looking into memory care communities?
Not every senior that has memory loss symptoms really need memory care. However, it is a good idea to begin the process of finding options early on. In these initial stages, you should focus on the input of your loved one. Those inputs may later become your guide to making decisions on their behalf.
What are the signs that indicate the need for memory care?
If the amount of hands-on care required by your loved one starts to really add up, it might be time to for the move. The decision is also an issue of finances in many cases. In-home care is much cheaper than 24/7 memory care.
Also, if a senior who has been living by themselves, receives a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s, it’s probably time to transition to a memory care community. Many safety issues arise as a result of cognitive changes, such as managing medications, handling finances or cooking on a hot stove.
How can I make the community I choose is the right fit?
You should always take the time to get a clear idea of the most important factors for your loved one, take a tour, and thoroughly review a memory care facility before making a final decision. If you invest this time and truly keep your loved one’s needs in mind, you will feel confident in your choice.
Researching Memory Care Facilities
From online reviews to CMS ratings and personal observations, every bit of information you can obtain is helpful when making this decision. Keep in mind that community auditing and incident reports can vary quite a bit between states. At the very least, you should check with your county or state office to ensure there are no abuse or neglect reports at the places you’re considering.
While you’re taking a tour of one of the communities, there are a number of different things you need to watch for. Watch the staff at work to ensure they are caring, respectful, and knowledgeable. Ask them about the training they’ve had and how long they have been at this memory care facility.
You should also ask your tour guide about the staffing ratio both during the day and in the middle of the night. Note whether or not there will be a specialized plan of care for your loved one, and find out which doctor’s visit the facility and how often they’re on the property.
Here are some other things to ask about during your tour or through the representative:
Community Features and Maintenance
While it is obviously a bad sign if you see dirty facilities and areas in need of serious maintenance, you should also make sure things don’t look too industrialized and stiff. Keep in mind that some wear and tear is normal, but things should never look like they’ve been neglected.
Ask yourself if the community seems easy to navigate. Are there markers in certain areas and by each room to help residents avoid becoming disoriented?
It is very important to find out how the community maintains regular communication with family members so that they can keep up with the current needs and health of their loved ones. Make sure they can discuss a plan with you that clearly states the frequency of updates and meetings between staff and the family.
Activities and Therapy
Your loved one deserves activities and therapies that they will enjoy. Make sure you review the available activities and therapy strategies so that you can make sure they’re a match for your loved one.
While this process can be exhausting, it will pay dividends when it comes to your peace of mind. You’ll feel good knowing that you’ve found the perfect memory care unit to ensure a high quality of life for your loved one as long as possible!
Memory care communities typically use design elements that, according to research, help to reduce stress levels in those with dementia or Alzheimer’s.