When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, or is faced with another serious memory loss condition, there is a good chance they will require professional memory care services at some point. Finding a continuing care retirement community (CCRC, or “life plan” community) with memory care will make life for the patient, loved ones, and caregivers more comfortable and enjoyable.
Many CCRCs and assisted living communities have memory care divisions within their nursing facilities, and today, more and more providers are adding these programs. Beyond this, nursing homes that work exclusively in memory care also are becoming more popular.
What is memory care?
Memory care is a unique type of care provided to patients with varying degrees of Alzheimer’s or dementia (or any other memory loss condition). This care involves a very structured and routine-based lifestyle in order to create a more comfortable and enjoyable day-to-day experience for the patient.
Days typically consist of a set schedule, maximized security, and activities that exercise the brain to reduce the many stresses of these diseases. The newest memory care centers are helping to make sure that their setting feels like a home, with common areas such as kitchens, large dining tables, and living areas.
Memory care communities also have a culture of recognizing the resident not merely as a person who has lost abilities but rather as someone who still has the ability to feel love, happiness, friendship, and caring. Of course, the degree to which this type of setting is most appropriate does depend in large part on the level of need and care required by the patient.
Choosing a memory care facility
Memory-loss conditions are mostly irreversible, especially Alzheimer’s. So, memory care programs or facilities are not cures, but they do strive to make life with these diseases much less daunting for patients, their caregivers, and loved ones.
Memory care works to slow the progression of the disease and provide the patient with a sense of purpose and identity—a reason to live and enjoy living. To achieve these goals, some important features to look for in memory care are:
Security: Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients often wander, and this can be dangerous. Look for a center that a) allows wandering to a healthy extent, and b) keeps wandering patients safe with extra security.
Support: Residents in memory care may become agitated. Look for memory care facilities that have ways of treating patients’ agitation with appropriate coping skills. Some even have sensory rooms that are designed to induce feelings of calm with weighted blankets, scents of lavender, and other calming tools.
Community: There are many levels of memory loss, and it is important for patients to interact with other patients who are at similar levels of memory loss. Similarly, patients should be engaging in activities that not only match their skill level but also their individual interests.
Medication control: Many dementia patients are over-medicated in assisted living facilities. To avoid this, find a facility with around-the-clock service from licensed nurses as well as trained caregivers. With more attention to everyday care, often less medication is required.
Sensory programming: While memory is decaying, the senses are still alive and well. Choose care centers that take this into account and capitalize on the use of senses in their day-to-day programs.
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