First, I want to assure you that you are not alone; according to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 5.7 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, and that number does not include other forms of dementia. When your loved one has progressive memory loss, it can be overwhelming for you as a caregiver and for your entire family to learn to manage expectations and adjust to the change in your relationship. Add to that your concern for your senior’s quality of life and safety, and you can see why memory care is an option you should consider.
The Basics of Memory Care
The needs of a senior with dementia can be quite different from those with physical limitations that impede on their ability to live independently. Think about the concerns you have now for your loved one. Can your senior attend to basic self-care and hygiene? Does your loved one wander off? Is he or she isolated, bored, or lonely? What about agitation or confusion? Is there risk of elder abuse? Some of these concerns you have about your senior can be addressed with the level of care provided in a memory care community. The goal is to create a stress-free environment that allows for socialization, security, and self-expression in a way that can possibly even slow some of the progression of the cognitive loss.
Another key component of memory care is 24/7 supervision, which is critical for seniors with dementia. If your loved one ages in place, he or she may always not be able to have nor afford a private caregiver, and if you are the caregiver, well, you know you can’t be on call every second of the day. You can keep up with a few activities a week or some hygiene aspects, but it may not be as frequent as you or your senior would prefer. In a memory care facility, your loved one is never truly alone. Supervision or assistance is available any time of day or night, and planned activities are offered regularly for a routine that is so beneficial for a senior with dementia.
If you have served as your loved one’s primary caregiver, you may be experiencing some of those same feelings of guilt and frustration that your senior is. Dementia presents its own sorts of challenges, and family members may not be prepared to adjust to the change in their loved one’s behaviors or abilities nor handle the emotional toil these changes can take. In short, you may not be equipped to meet your senior’s specific needs, which can add to your stress level.
A memory care facility provides specialized training for its caregivers and other support staff. This expertise combined with compassion and patience means that your loved one can be engaged and stimulated. In a memory care senior living, your loved one may have a set schedule, daily activities, and social interaction that you may not be able to maintain on your own. When these needs are being met through round-the-clock memory care, you can focus your energy on spending quality time with your loved one without the added stress on your relationship. You can gain peace of mind knowing that when you are not there, your senior is safe and in good hands.
Some families hesitate to make any changes in their loved one’s living arrangements until some event happens, and then they scramble to find a facility that they are comfortable with. Instead, imagine touring memory care facilities, talking with staff, and seeing first-hand the kind of care provided. When you are proactive rather than reactive, you have options that can benefit your loved one.
I encourage you to listen to your intuition about your loved one’s cognitive loss and ask the advice of your aging life care manager or other medical provider about quality facilities they may recommend. If possible, visit the senior living facilities and ask questions about fees, services, staff training and ratios, and anything else you want to know. And don’t forget to start a discussion with your loved one as well to prepare them for the transition and how it can help them.
Best of luck,