How to find memory care for a family member with dementia or Alzheimer’s
Cognitive impairment in seniors is both heartbreaking and complicated. When a loved one starts to exhibit symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia, family members may have to come to the difficult decision to seek out long-term care for their family member.
A general senior living community typically doesn’t cut it for those dealing with cognitive impairments. In these situations, it’s best to seek out memory care services. In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know about memory care — what it is, what the benefits are, and when it’s time to seek help for your loved one.
What is Memory Care?
Memory care refers to a form of long-term care that offers specialized support for people with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or any other form of cognitive impairment. Staff and facilities are designed to meet the social, medical, and safety needs of these people. This ranges from additional security measures for residents who may wander to visits from therapy pets.
Alvaro Pascual-Leone, M.D., medical director of the Deanna and Sidney Wolk Center for Memory Health, considers memory care not to be treating the disease, but “[focusing] on providing care for the patient who has the disease.” As he told Forbes, that should include treatment for the family as well.
What are the Benefits of Memory Care?
It’s hard to watch a loved one deal with memory loss. Family members may often feel helpless, as they don’t have the experience or skills to support their loved one. Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other forms of cognitive impairment are complicated diseases.
Seeking out specialized care can help those suffering from memory loss stimulate cognitive functions and overall improve their quality of life. Working with a memory care community can lead to the use of less antipsychotic medication for residents. Here are a few benefits to expect from seeking out memory care for loved ones:
- Specially-trained staff members — Memory care providers have deep skills and training that prepare them to work with people with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other forms of cognitive impairment. Memory care communities will often have a low staff-to-resident ratio and coordinate with the resident’s other healthcare providers to ensure they’ll be able to provide the right kind of care for that individual. These staff members are available around the clock to ensure that residents always have the care that they need.
- Safe and supportive environment — People living with memory loss may deal with certain internal and/or external triggers that cause them to become upset or agitated. Staff at a memory care facility are trained to reduce stress and overstimulation that may set off those triggers. One of the first things that staff will do is assess scheduling and environmental factors for any potential triggers. For example, these environments are also highly secure and often built with unique layouts to prevent confusion that may lead to patients wandering off. That way, family members can rest assured that their loved ones are safe and supported.
- Programming suited to different cognitive abilities — Providing residents with a high quality of life is a top priority for memory care communities. Specialized treatment is a large part of that, but so are activities suited to every resident’s level of cognitive ability. Residents can participate in various activities that suit individual cognitive ability, memory, language, and physical capabilities. These can range from gardening to arts and crafts to music therapy.
When is it Time to Seek Memory Care for a Loved One?
As Alzheimer’s or dementia progresses, it becomes difficult for family members to provide loved ones with the care they need. A cognitive impairment requires specialized care that most people simply are not equipped for.
While family members want the best for their loved one suffering from memory loss, making the decision to seek professional care can be a difficult one. But if a family member finds themselves answering yes to any of the following questions, it may be time to seek out a memory care community:
- Am I concerned about my loved one’s safety at home when I’m not around?
- Am I unable to keep up with my loved one’s medication routine?
- Is it becoming increasingly difficult to handle my loved one’s Alzheimer’s/dementia-related behaviors?
- Am I feeling overly burnt out as a caregiver?
- Would the structure and socialization of a memory care community benefit my loved one?
- Am I neglecting my other relationships and responsibilities?
How to Overcome the Guilt of Moving a Loved One into a Memory Care Community?
Caregivers or people close to someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia are always aware that memory care may end up becoming a necessity for their loved one — but that doesn’t make the decision any easier. People often wrestle with feelings of guilt when contemplating this decision. It’s common for family members to wonder if they’re doing the right thing.
But as “A Place for Mom” says, delaying their move to memory care may actually end up doing more harm than good. It could impact the person’s health, your own well being, and your relationship with that loved one.
But just remember that recognizing that your loved one needs personalized, specialized care is a selfless act — you’re doing what’s best for the person. Talk to your friends and family members if you’re struggling with your role as a caregiver. Seek out their help in picking the right type of service for your loved one. It’s not easy watching your loved one deal with Alzheimer’s or dementia, but you can find comfort in knowing their care is in competent and loving hands.
Senior Care Communities vs. Memory Care — What’s the Difference?
When starting the search for care for your loved one, it’s important to mind the difference between a general nursing home and memory care services. A nursing home does offer intensive care for its residents, but it’s more focused on general medical care than memory care.
Because of that, a nursing home won’t be ideal for a senior with severe Alzheimer’s or dementia. These communities aren’t structured to deal with the complications of cognitive impairments. For example, most nursing homes don’t have the activity programming or physical layout necessary to cater to the needs of a person suffering from memory loss.
But if your loved one is still in the early or moderate stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, a nursing home could be a suitable option. Staff members will be equipped to assist residents with basic tasks impacted by memory loss, such as grooming. The difference between a nursing home and a memory care community may not seem significant, but they matter when it comes to the care and support of your loved one.
The best way to determine which is the right option for you is to talk to a few different communities about your loved one’s needs. Whichever you feel the most comfortable with is the route you should take for your loved one’s care.
What Are the Different Kinds of Memory Care?
While memory care services are the best option for people living with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or any other kind of cognitive impairment, it’s still not a one-size-fits-all type of treatment. Here are different types of memory care services you can consider for your loved one:
- Personal care — This involves a nurse/staff assisting a patient with daily personal tasks, such as bathing, dressing, and eating. Personal care services can be provided in the person’s home, in order for them to maintain a level of comfort. But for more serious cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s, these services can be provided in an outside community. Residents are also able to enjoy access to worship services, resident cats and dogs, and a tight-knit community of friends and neighbors at a home like St. Anne’s.
- Adult day center — Caretakers that also juggle a full-time job may opt for an adult day center for their loved one. This provides the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia a safe and structured environment to be in during those working hours. Day centers provide participants with socialization, supervision, and daily activities.
- Respite care — This type of treatment involves paid professionals or volunteers (usually family members) coming into the person’s home to provide care. If the person’s memory loss is still in earlier stages, this caregiver can provide additional services such as driving them to medical appointments or assisting with household chores.
- Residential care — This type of memory care takes place in a community specifically designed for people who need medical supervision or personalized care. These communities are best suited for individuals with more severe memory loss. There are several types of residential care services available in order to accommodate residents with different levels of functionality.
Memory Care Community Services
The benefit of seeking out memory care for your loved one is that the skilled staff at hand is qualified to offer a number of useful services to people suffering from memory loss. Here are some services you can expect:
- Activities such as art projects, group reading, and physical activities
- Behavioral management to help with the side effects of dementia or Alzheimer’s, such as combativeness or wandering
- Counseling to help your loved one cope with their memory loss
- Medical treatment such as blood pressure checks and wound care
- Occupational/physical therapy to assist your loved one as their memory loss progresses
How Much Does Memory Care Cost?
Professionals caring for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia have years of training and experience in the field. Because of that, these services are not inexpensive. AARP reports that, as of 2021, the average memory care monthly rent in the US is $6,935. That’s significantly more than the average monthly cost of assisted living at $5,380. But on the other hand, it’s nearly half the average monthly cost of a nursing home — $10,562.
It’s not a secret that this care is costly. Not to mention that understanding the breakdown of these costs may initially be confusing. But if it’s the right option for your loved one, communities should help you to find a payment model that works for you and your family. Talk to the memory care community and see if a payment plan is available.
Medicare or long-term care insurance should help to ease the costs as well. Keep in mind that communities like St. Anne’s may offer a benevolence fund to residents. This means that even if a resident’s family exhausts their funds, their loved one can still receive the care they need.
How to Find the Right Memory Care Community for Your Loved One
If you decide that memory care is the right option for your loved one, do your homework to find residences in the area that seem like they’d be a good fit for your loved one. After that, set up a few tours.
Memory care communities should have a wealth of information on their websites. But if they’re missing a key piece of information, or there’s simply something you’d like to discuss in further detail, come to your tour prepared with some questions. Here are some to consider:
- What medical services are provided?
- What are the living quarters like?
- What amenities does the community offer?
- What are the recreation options?
When you’re on the tour, keep an eye out for the level of resident engagement, facility upkeep, security, and overall staff friendliness. Take a walk around the grounds and ask other residents about their experience at the community. After you’ve decided on a favorite, bring your loved one along for another visit. If they like it as much as you do, you can move forward on the next steps.
TL;DR Summary – Senior Memeory Care
Watching a loved one live with Alzheimer’s or dementia is heartbreaking, but seeking out specialized memory care services for them will reduce overstimulation and provide activities that increase their quality of life. As there are a number of different types of memory care, do your research to see which type is the best fit for your loved one’s needs.
Just make sure to do research before settling on a community for your loved one. Take a tour and ask relevant questions. Look into their costs and discuss a payment plan if needed. Just remember that if everything about the community feels right, moving your loved one into memory care is the best option for them.
We’d love to talk you through this transition. Contact St. Anne’s today to learn about our memory care services.