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Everything You Need To Know About Memory Care

There’s a difference between needing help with the activities of daily living (ADL) — bathing, dressing, managing medicines — and needing memory care. Assisted living is the level of care intended to help otherwise capable seniors with these ADLs. One of the first things to know about memory care is it’s a form of assisted living that provides intensive, specialized care for people living with dementia or memory and cognitive issues, including Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

The Options for Memory Care

There are stand-alone memory care facilities available, memory care units within assisted living facilities, and a unique level of care within continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), also known as Life Plan Communities. Memory care is regulated differently from state to state, and the quality of care may vary. It’s important to visit, observe and ask questions to find the right memory care fit for a loved one.

A Growing Need

Memory care is a growing segment in the senior housing industry. There were 76 million births in the United States from 1946 to 1964, the 19 years usually called the “baby boom.” By 2012, nearly 11 million had died, leaving some 65.2 million survivors. But when immigrants in that same age range are included, the number grows to an estimated 76.4 million. By 2050, the number of people ages 65 and older with Alzheimer’s may grow to a projected 12.7 million.

Key Concepts to Understand

Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and memory care are broad topics, well beyond the scope of a single article.  One of the best places to start gathering information is the Alzheimer’s Association website. Another excellent starting point is to speak with one of the memory care experts in your area.  Having worked with hundreds of families to find solutions for the challenges that accompany memory impairment, memory care professionals will answer your questions and clarify the benefits of personalized care and activity focused programs for memory care. You can tour a community to see how programs and amenities integrate to elevate the quality of life for residents and maximize their potential for meaningful days. But beyond facts and figures, these five key concepts stand out to keep in mind when considering memory care for a loved one or beginning the search for the right memory care services.

  1. Memory Care Communities are Specifically for People with Dementia

As previously stated, memory care goes beyond the services of assisted living. In addition to constant care and supervision, a high-quality memory care unit in a CCRC is made for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia and staffed with trained professionals to serve them. The environment is secure and designed to reduce the risk of residents getting into dangerous situations or wandering into the wrong areas. There may be interior gardens for residents and families to enjoy, and certain areas may be color-coded to help with easy navigation and to decrease anxiety. In addition to extra security, this type of environment creates the right setting for residents to regain a sense of independence and to help maintain it longer.

  1. Memory Care Communities Don’t Isolate Residents

The idea of living in a secured or locked memory unit sounds more severe than it is. Memory care programs encourage socialization. Though the section for memory care may be housed in a separate wing or building from traditional assisted living, residents are not forced to stay in their individual dwellings. While a level of security is necessary to keep residents safe, it’s implemented discreetly amid comfortable living spaces and with supervised participation in group therapies and activities. Memory residents typically have access to the same amenities the community offers everyone, although they may need help and supervision to take advantage of them. The goal is for residents to remain engaged, happy, and as independent as possible.  The memory care neighborhood is part of the overall community living atmosphere, and great care is taken to prevent residents from feeling loneliness or isolation.

  1. Memory Care Helps with Behavioral Issues

Apart from leisure and recreational programs offered by memory care communities, a growing number of therapeutic programs are employed to help address the challenges of living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and give the individual a stronger foundation to maintain a measure of independence and find contentment and meaning each day. As the quality of memory care continues to evolve and become more personal, more advanced memory care programming addressing each stage of the disease is helping elevate the quality of life for residents.

  1. Residential Memory Care is All-Inclusive

At a good CCRC, memory care is a comprehensive program and, indeed, the key to a better life for individuals and families. This type of setting incorporates a 24/7 layer of team support whose mission is to assist with activities of daily living, ensure safety and good health, and to lead residents through programs geared to enhance their physical, social, emotional, spiritual and intellectual well-being. This also means 24- hour supervised care for patients through the progressive stages of Alzheimer’s disease. A residence, meals, housekeeping, laundry, medication management, and potentially other services and advantages are included, although it’s best to clarify this in detail before selecting a memory care community.  This type of environment can bring peace and relief to families who now know their loved one is receiving care from professionals trained and equipped to succeed. Worry, anxiety, and the logistics of trying to be a family caregiver in addition to handling one’s regular job and family responsibilities are eliminated. Families now have practitioners and advocates in the care and support of their loved ones.

  1. Choosing the Right Memory Care Option

Selecting the most appropriate memory care community for a loved one takes homework and legwork. You must consider your loved one’s needs and requirements, and cross-reference them to the programs and treatment modalities offered at the communities you’re considering. You should visit and tour more than once. You should solicit the input and opinion of your loved one’s physicians. You should also do as much research as possible, and attempt to speak with family members of current or former residents of each community. Your loved one’s opinion is also of utmost importance. Work to communicate effectively and include them in the decision-making process. To help make the most of an onsite visit, try to obtain answers to these questions, and any others specific to your situation:

  • What type of training has the staff received?
  • What is the monthly rate for housing and care? What services does that rate include?
  • What is the extent of medical care provided?
  • Are rooms private or semiprivate? How do prices vary for each option?
  • What level of personal assistance can residents expect?
  • What is the policy for handling medical emergencies?
  • How is the community secured?
  • Which meals are provided? Are special dietary requests accommodated?
  • How often are housekeeping and laundry services provided?
  • What programs (exercise, physical therapy, social and other activities) does the community offer?
  • What about special needs, such as diabetic care, mobility issues or wandering?
  • How do they handle physical aggressiveness? Do they use antipsychotic medication?
  • Are residents grouped by cognitive level?
  • What is the ratio of staff to residents during the day, and also at night?
  • How does the community communicate with families about a resident’s well-being?
  • What is the discharge policy?
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