Elderly people in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia need speciality care to ensure that their needs are being met. If your loved one’s dementia symptoms have progressed to the point that they need expert help, then moving them into a memory care facility might be the best option for them and the entire family. Here’s what you need to know about memory care:
What Is Memory Care?
Memory care refers to long-term residential care specifically designed to meet the needs of people with memory care issues, usually Alzheimer’s and dementia. There are stand-alone memory care facilities available, and some retirement communities and nursing homes also offer specialized memory care “neighborhoods” for residents who need extra help. Memory care facilities provide some of the same benefits as nursing homes and assisted living facilities, including room and board, daily meals, laundering adaptive clothing and social programming. However, they also provide many other features and services that are meant specifically for residents with memory care issues.
For example, most memory care facilities have extensive security to prevent residents from wandering out of the building, which can include cameras, alarms, motion-activated lights, delayed-egress exit doors, digital locks, 24/7 security staff and more. Most outdoor spaces are enclosed so that residents can get fresh air without the danger of wandering off. Some facilities also provide residents with bracelets so staff can track their location and find them quickly if they do manage to wander off. By selecting the best assisted living facilities, you can ensure that your loved ones receive the comprehensive care and security they need for a fulfilling and safe living experience. Fortunately, the best assisted living facilities in Philadelphia offer extensive security measures to ensure the safety of their residents.
Caregivers are also typically trained to specifically care for residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and there is usually a low staff-to-patient ratio so that residents can receive more attention. Caregivers take a more active role in daily life than they do in other facilities, helping residents get to meals and other activities on time. Facilities may offer programming that specifically caters to those struggling with Alzheimer’s and dementia, such as activities designed to slow the development of symptoms. Many memory care facilities are also designed to reduce disorientation and improve memory in residents. For example, many memory facilities feature curved walls, muted paint colors and soft lighting to reduce confusion and promote a calming atmosphere. Some facilities also place memory boxes outside of suites to help residents remember which room is theirs.
How to Decide If Your Loved One Needs Memory Care
Moving your loved one into any kind of assisted living facility, including memory care, is a big decision, and not one to be made lightly. Most people in the early stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s can comfortably live on their own or with a family member, depending on their other health conditions. Hiring a home health aide or other help can ease the burden and be an excellent gift for dementia patients, but eventually you might need to look into moving your loved one into a memory care facility. Here are some signs that your loved one might benefit from memory care:
- You are worried about your loved one’s safety.
- Your loved one is wandering off more and your efforts have not been able to deter them.
- Your loved one struggles with the activities of daily living, such as dressing themselves and keeping up with personal hygiene.
- Your loved one forgets to eat, drink and/or take their medications.
- Your loved one’s agitation and confusion leads to violent outbursts that endanger their safety or that of others.
- Your loved one requires care that you can’t physically provide for any reason.
- You are neglecting work or other family responsibilities to care for your loved one.
- You have been taking care of your loved one and are beginning to experience caregiver burnout.
If you suspect your loved one is showing signs of dementia, we recommend getting a professional evaluation by a doctor as soon as possible. This will establish a baseline and allow you to track whether or not your loved one’s symptoms are progressing and, if so, how quickly they are declining. This information will help you make an informed decision about when to move them into memory care.
Tips for Choosing a Memory Care Facility
First of all, we recommend considering your financial options for paying for memory care. If your loved one is still in the early stages of dementia, it’s often more cost-effective to hire a part-time home health aide or to share caretaking duties among family members. Once your loved one is ready to move into memory care, ask facilities for breakdowns of the cost structure and what is and isn’t included in monthly rent. Health insurance may cover certain aspects of care, but it usually won’t cover everything, so bear that in mind when you crunch the numbers.
When beginning your search, look for memory facilities that are properly accredited and well reviewed. You may want to ask for recommendations from medical professionals or from your loved one’s senior peers who are currently residing in assisted living facilities. When touring the facility, pay attention to the cleanliness of the environment and look for dementia-specific design features. Ask about security features to prevent wandering and what the protocols are for residents exhibiting agitation or aggression. Also inquire about what level of medical care is available, if any, and if outside medical professionals can come in if necessary.
You should also look closely at the residents themselves: Do they appear recently bathed and well-groomed? Does their Alzheimer’s clothing look clean and smell fresh? Watch how staff treat residents and observe the ratio of staff members to patients. Ask about staff turnover and what kind of specialty training they undergo to assist patients with dementia. What other criteria did you have in mind when touring an assisted living facility? Let us know in the comments below!