What Is a Memory Care Facility?

Everyday, ten thousand people are turning 65 years old, and 70% of those people will need help with daily activities of living within the next ten years. If Alzheimer’s or dementia is not an immediate concern, and your loved one just needs some additional care to complete activities of daily living, then assisted living facilities can be an excellent choice. However, if your loved one has more complex needs associated with memory impairment, a Memory Care Facility will provide specialized care that can further ensure the safety and comfort of your loved one.  

These are some of the ways Memory Care facilities specifically serve people with dementia:

  • Staff members who are specifically trained to keep the condition of memory impairment at the forefront of their minds while interacting with residents
  • Secure environments reduce the risk of danger from wandering and allow residents to remain independent for as long as possible
  • Color-coding in hallways and doorways assists with navigation and reduce anxiety in residents
  • Leisure and therapeutic programs are specialized to address memory impairment and are designed to help slow the spread of dementia and improve the quality of life for residents
  • Buildings designed to be circular, so residents can always reach their destination
  • Secure outdoor areas that allow residents to view nature, and be in the sunlight
  • Stable routines that reduce anxiety and aggression and promote socializing

What Is the Difference Between Assisted Living and Memory Care?

Both assisted living and Memory Care facilities offer basic supervised care, medical monitoring, and help with daily activities like dressing and bathing. Where Memory Care facilities really begin to stand out is in the way they structure security and social activities. Dementia slowly interferes with a person’s ability to manage daily life. Memory loss can be isolating and disorienting. Feeling of loneliness and fear are very common for a person with dementia. Memory Care facilities are focused specifically on creating safe and stimulating environments that help people with dementia stay as oriented with their surroundings and as socially engaged as possible. These are just a few of the special programs offered exclusively by Memory Care facilities:

  • Stations that let residents recreate daily activities from their younger years such as office work and childcare
  • Intimate dining environments that take place around a kitchen table, instead of taking trays in a large cafeteria
  • Intentional, therapeutic engaging of all the senses such as the smell of a cake baking, the sound of familiar music, and individualized reintroduction of hobbies and interests the residents had before the onset of dementia
  • Encouraging active wandering as a means of exercise
  • Guided nature excursions through secure gardens that engage the senses and ease emotional distress

Assisted living environments will definitely be able to help with grooming, dressing, bathing, and other activities of daily living that early stages of dementia might affect. However, assisted living isn’t designed with dementia patients in mind. Several studies have irrefutably concluded that there are things that can be done to slow the progression of dementia in your loved one, and these are things assisted living facilities won’t necessarily do. Even if your loved one is doing okay in a nursing home while in the early stages of a dementia or an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, specialized involvement and therapies will slow the spread of the disease.

Another important difference is the way staff is trained to manage aggressive behaviors. In Memory Care facilities, staff are trained to recognize aggressive behaviors as triggers such as hunger, physical discomfort, or fear. A Memory Care team expects to encounter these behaviors on occasion. Memory care teams know how to de-escalate these symptoms using therapeutic techniques. In an understaffed nursing home, it’s unfortunately common to turn to psychotropic drugs to sedate residents who display aggressive behaviors. These types of treatments can actually further the progression of the condition.  

When Is It Time to Start Considering Memory Care?

As soon as your loved one receives a diagnosis, start having conversations about Memory Care. Many people prefer to stay at home through the beginning stages as long as no serious safety issues are present. This is both understandable and encouraged. Having conversations with your loved one in advance allows them the dignity of being involved with the decisions for their own future care. During this time, is your best opportunities to begin visiting, and exploring reputable licensed Memory Care facilities in your area.

Doing your research before your loved one needs to transition, will make you more resourceful and help your loved ones to prepare. Making the transition during the earlier stages of dementia allows your loved one necessary adjustment time, so they’re familiar with their surroundings and can form relationships and connections with the staff and other residents before they progress to later stages of the condition. Three Signs that It’s Time to Consider Memory Care:

  1. Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other dementia-related condition.  
    As mentioned above, studies show that it’s often better for your loved one to transition into Memory Care from home before more dangerous signs and symptoms begin to surface.
  2. Caregiving responsibility has become all-consuming.
    Caregiving for a loved one with memory impairment is a 24/7 occupation. If you are approaching, or have already reached a point where caregiving duties have completely overwhelmed your household, it is likely in the best interest of both you and your loved one, to consider Memory care.
  3. An especially trying situation, is when caregivers are needing to juggle a career, the needs of their own children, and the special care of an aging parent. Even the most dedicated and diligent of caregivers, with this level of responsibility, can start to notice a deterioration in their own health. Getting caught up in the whirlwind of caregiving can cause a person to lose track of days and times, and result in sleep disorders and Sundowner’s syndrome.   Physical signs that a caregiving is taking a toll on your own health include:
    • Rapid weight loss
    • Empty fridges and cabinets
    • Neglected personal hygiene
    • Evidence of medications being undertaken or overtaken
    • Inexplicable bruises on you and/or your loved one
    • Unpaid bills or missed appointments   It’s also important to consider that most fatal accidents occur at home. If you find yourself constantly worrying about the safety of a loved one’s well-being, transitioning to Memory Care can bring peace of mind. You can return to your daily life while resting assured that your loved one is being cared for day-in and day-out.
  4. Your Loved One Cannot Maintain a Social Life.
    The social life of someone with dementia begins to shrink significantly as the condition progresses. Isolation and loneliness are very common with dementia. The further your loved one slips into silence and disinterest, the more quickly to the condition will progress.
  5. Memory Care facilities have low caregiver-to-resident ratios and are encouraged to maintain rich and vibrant social lives. Daily activities, supervised excursions, and creative therapeutic outlets are the foundation upon which these facilities have been developed. These are the keys to slowing the progression of dementia, and the positive effects they have on the residents overall happiness and health are well-documented.
Caregiving responsibility has become all-consuming

Trust your instincts. If you suspect that it’s time to move your loved one into a Memory Care facility, chances are it will be in the best interest for you and your loved one.

You can get further confirmation and reassurance by setting up consultations at Memory Care centers near you. Trust yourself to make the decisions that will be the best path forward for you and your family.

Don’t wait until your loved one has progressed into a high-risk situation and you and your family members are physically and emotionally exhausted. When you understand the signs and symptoms of cognitive decline, you can be aware of your loved ones health and well-being, and trust yourself to make the best choices for everyone involved.

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