Alzheimer's / Dementia

11/13/2020 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Older adults living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia have particular lifestyle needs. While many of them can live at home with round-the-clock care during the early stages of the disease, there often reaches a point when they need more care than anyone at home can provide.

In the mid-1990s, assisted living facilities began to realize that caring for patients with dementia was beyond the scope of a traditional assisted living facility. Since about sixty-percent of dementia patients tend to wander, these facilities “secured” one of their wings, labeling them “dementia units.” They added specially-trained staff members, and the memory care unit came into being.

Today, many memory care facilities remain attached to a broader senior living community. However, standalone memory care facilities have begun to crop up over the last fifteen years. Memory care communities accommodate older adults with cognitive issues, built with an absolute focus on memory care patients.

How does memory care contrast with the standard care that residents receive in an assisted living facility?

What makes memory care different?

Residents of a regular assisted living facility manage their own time, and the staff is not continuously checking on them. The staff posts menus and mealtimes and expect the residents to make their way to the dining area. It is also the residents’ responsibility to show up for other activities.

With memory care, the staff must ensure that each resident is getting to meals and coming to activities. As the disease progresses to the later stages, those activities, programs, and the environment in which they live must be purposefully designed to improve cognitive function and mitigate the effects of dementia.

What are the advantages of a standalone memory care facility?

While not all facilities are created equal, you should see the following five features in the best of them.

The entire building is constructed with memory care residents in mind

As mentioned earlier, people with dementia are prone to wander. Dedicated memory care facilities have alarms on every door, required codes for elevator use, and outdoor spaces enclosed, so residents are safe and remain on-site. Many provide tracking bracelets that allow residents to move about while staff monitors their location.

Every staff member has specialized training

Everyone from the CEO to those working in the kitchen is trained – and receive continuing education – on the best practices for caring for those with cognitive issues. Working with individuals who have dementia requires a systematic approach to engaging and redirecting them. Training includes knowing how to diffuse potential aggravating situations and managing agitation in all aspects of living – during meal times, social interaction, and individual care.

Memory care communities are individually customized for each resident

All routines are carefully planned according to a resident’s needs. The plan includes when they eat, bathe, and get dressed. During the day, activities revolve around things that stimulate residents both physically and cognitively.

With some residents, passive activities, such as watching TV, are replaced with reading, games, puzzles, or nature walks. Others might enjoy watching TV, and their memory can be activated by it. In these cases, a well-trained staff member can guide the conversation to a time and place in the past that is enjoyable and stimulating. Old TV shows and sports programs are favorites of those with moderate to severe dementia.

The design and layout of the facility minimizes over-stimulation

Older adults with Alzheimer’s can become overwhelmed by large groups and spaces. The layout of a standard assisted living facility could leave them vulnerable to confusion and distraction. Standalone facilities often divide their areas into smaller “neighborhoods,” each of which has its common area for dining and other activities. Also, security throughout the building and the surrounding grounds lowers the chances of a resident leaving the property.

Family involvement is encouraged

Because of the residents’ mental condition, a standalone memory care facility encourages family members to participate in designing the care plan and lifestyle for each resident. Families are urged to visit the community often, and they receive regular communication with updates about their loved ones.

The regulation of memory care facilities varies from state to state, and the quality of each facility can be different. It’s essential to visit and come prepared with questions to ensure it’s the right fit for your loved one.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff