If your loved one is already in an assisted living environment, it might be necessary to change to a community that focuses directly on memory care. Both assisted living and memory care are able to serve people with a range of health issues, including cognitive impairments. However, memory care is designed specifically for those dealing with memory loss and dementia. In addition to having staff who are trained to deal with cognitive impairments, the community itself is designed to be a supportive and safe environment for those with memory loss. Depending on the stage you are on in your specific journey, some families find it best to start with assisted living, while for others, memory care is the immediate best option.
Here are some of the ways memory care is a more comprehensive choice for those experiencing cognitive impairment and memory loss.
Seniors with moderate to advanced dementia may wander, and are less able to make good choices and decisions. Memory care environments are specifically designed to keep them safe, while allowing them to experience as much independence as safely possible, including safety precautions such as door alarms, as well as environmental considerations such as motion-sensored lights or one-touch sinks. These extra touches not only allow residents to have a safer living experience, but also one that best allows for independence.
Loss of memory often corresponds with a loss of social skills. Residents in assisted living environments are able to maintain most of the functions of daily living on their own, including managing their social activities. Those who are experiencing memory loss often need additional help socializing with others, staying active, and engaging in meaningful relationships. Memory care environments are also able to provide activities, therapies and exercises designed to provide a benefit to those experiencing memory loss.
Unfamiliar sights, sounds, and even smells can be overwhelming to a person with dementia or memory loss. Memory care environments are designed to maintain an engaging environment that is not overwhelming to their senses. They are also skilled in providing sensory stimulation that is appropriate for those with memory loss, and can even benefit their whole mind-body health.
Memory care communities and assisted living communities both share similar staff, such as nurses and nursing assistants. However, memory care communities employ staff who are equipped with additional training and experience in memory loss. Most states require all staff in memory care communities (from administration to housekeeping) to attend continuing education training about memory care, making memory care environments better able to support the needs of these individuals.
While assisted living communities can offer delicious meals in a social setting, memory care communities can offer all that and more. Dementia can complicate nutrition, and memory care communities can accommodate specialized diets, as well as offer additional methods of food preparation and presentation that are safe and delicious for those with memory loss. The dining area is also less distracting and can utilize adaptive plates and/or utensils to better suit their needs.
While assisted living communities offer peace of mind and support, they might not be the most cognitively stimulating environment for someone living with memory loss.
When people experiencing memory loss are in the right environment, not only are they more safe and secure, their needs are better able to be met by well-trained staff, and they can interact with their cognitive peers and stay mentally and socially engaged. These are factors that help people continue to thrive and live their best lives, even while experiencing memory loss.
Is it Time for Memory Care?Life with dementia is especially difficult in those early stages, while you are just beginning to see symptoms of memory loss, or finding a way forward with a new diagnosis. Of course, living and experiencing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is not the same for everyone. However, there are some hallmarks of how cognitive decline presents itself.
Here are a few common signs that memory loss is beginning to impact daily life:
- Disorganization or inability to take care of household tasks such as balancing a budget, keeping up with housekeeping, or paying bills.
- Difficulty keeping up with conversations because of inability to find the right words or phrases.
- Difficulty remembering new information, such as the name of a new neighbor or
details of a newspaper article they just read.
- Skipping meals or becoming overwhelmed with the process of getting a meal to
- Inability to keep up with work or volunteer tasks that were never an issue before.
- Often losing or misplacing important or valuable objects.
- Finding it difficult to pay attention to details.
- Personality changes (e.g., becoming more easily agitated than usual).
It might be time to explore memory care if you or your loved one:
- Has fallen in the past six months.
- Lives with chronic pain or a complex medication condition.
- Struggles with medication management.
- Feels lonely, isolated, depressed, or anxious.
- Struggles with nutritional needs, such as grocery shopping, meal preparation, or healthy eating.
- Needs a helping hand when it comes to daily personal care or household upkeep.
When you know it is no longer safe for your loved one to live without specialized memory care, it is time to look at different options. The most important thing is that your loved one is safe, well cared for, and able to engage and thrive with others on similar journeys.