“My mother’s physician thinks it may be time to consider memory care, but honestly, I don’t know much about it and how it differs from other senior living options. Can you explain the benefits of memory care so that my family can decide what is best for Mom?” – Joe from Roswell

Any time you choose a senior living community for your loved one, it can be a difficult decision. Finding the right level of care just complicates the matter, but the truth is that the benefits of memory care make it an option that deserves serious consideration. You probably are familiar with the basic senior living choices, which include aging in place at home, independent living, assisted living, and nursing home care. Let’s look at where memory care falls in that spectrum and what advantages it has for your loved one.

Understanding Memory Care

Memory care is somewhere between assisted living and nursing home care, but it makes sense why it has become a separate senior living possibility. The goals of memory care are to keep your loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia safe and to promote quality of life through appropriate care, assistance, and therapies. Memory care can be part of a continuing care retirement community, a wing in an assisted living facility or nursing home, or a separate community devoted entirely to the stages of dementia. It is more involved than assisted living care, and less physically focused than nursing home care, although they both provide round-the-clock monitoring.

Some of the benefits of memory care facilities include the following focuses:

  • 24-hour care and supervision
  • Specialized staff with ongoing training for dementia care
  • A secure environment
  • Medication management
  • Personal care and hygiene assistance
  • Incontinence care
  • Memory-enhancing therapies
  • Transportation to medical appointments off property

Not every memory care community offers the same amenities or patient to worker ratio, which is why it is so important to understand your loved one’s level of need and to visit several communities to find a good fit. You should also ask about the specialized training the staff receive, including what it involves and what strategies they employ to address the behavioral issues that some dementia patients exhibit.

Knowing What to Look For

Now that you have a better picture of what memory care includes, you should dive a little deeper. A quality memory care facility should emphasize care coordination and customization. Dementia or Alzheimer’s can manifest differently in each senior, so a facility that understands these subtle distinctions and can compensate for them should be on your radar.

How does the facility prevent wandering and provide security without feeling like a prison? What is its history with residents getting out, and does it have adequate security at all entrances? What safety protocols are in place for individual rooms in addition to public spaces?

Consider also how the staff, from administration to caregivers, interacts with the residents and their families. Does the facility provide a range of therapies, such as occupational, music, art, pet, and reminiscence therapies? Does it have a layout that limits dead ends and frustration? Is it peaceful and quiet, or do you find it overstimulating? Can your loved one enjoy the outdoors in an enclosed garden or courtyard?

It is a lot to think of, so before you stop by for a tour, make a list of questions or items you want to review before you go. That way, you can cover your concerns when on property. In addition, consider the administration’s attitude about visits; are you welcome any time for a pop in, or do they insist on appointments to have more control over image and impression?

Telling the Time

The other side of the coin is more of a personal nature: how well do you, a caregiver, or the family understand the benefits of memory care for your loved one? It may require an objective look at your senior’s living arrangement and abilities. Here are behavioral and cognitive signs that indicate memory care is a good alternative to assisted care or aging in place:

  • Agitation or aggression
  • Hygiene and cleanliness are not maintained
  • Weight loss or poor nutrition
  • Problems managing medications
  • Difficulty with sleep patterns
  • Wandering or getting lost

Keep in mind that memory care is a balance, finding the best way to preserve the dignity and independence for your senior with dementia of any form, yet also balancing the safety of that individual.

Hopefully, this brief explanation of the benefits of memory care have helped shed some light on this relatively recent senior living possibility. Our care management team is also available to explain the advantages and make recommendations based on our experience and your loved one’s needs.

Best of luck to you and your mother.

–Lisa

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