The boom in the senior citizen population has resulted in assisted living and skilled nursing facilities becoming staples of modern culture. Assisted Living communities offer an option for people who do not need the total care of a traditional “nursing home,” but do require some assistance with the activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, eating, etc.
Memory Care, sometimes referred to more specifically as Alzheimer’s care, is a specialized form of long-term care. This type of facility exists to provide care for residents that have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, other forms of dementia, or any other condition affecting memory. There are many similarities between assisted living/skilled nursing facilities and memory care, but effective memory care requires a different approach in some areas:
- The physical facility. Given that residents often tend to roam, memory care centers are generally designed with larger common areas towards the middle of the building to make them easier to navigate and to minimize getting lost in individual bedrooms. For the same reason, doors may be locked or alarmed to alert staff of a resident leaving or entering a potentially dangerous area, such as the kitchen or supply closet.
- Staff training. Any type of senior care usually involves dealing with some degree of memory loss and behavior changes. In Alzheimer’s and other memory care, these symptoms can be much more pronounced. Memory care staff are trained to assist residents who exhibit behaviors consistent with memory impairment. These behaviors include repeatedly asking the same questions, becoming easily frustrated and/or confused, emotional outbursts, wanting to “go home” or “get out of here,” or the inability to control bodily functions. Staff properly trained in memory care are critical to the creation of the most therapeutic environment for residents and their families.
- Routine. Memory care centers seek to provide as much routine as possible for their residents. Activity groups are generally held in consistent time slots. With a consistent routine, even residents with severe memory impairment are often able to recall that, for example, exercise group always follows breakfast. Another example of an effective routine is assigned seats at meals. A resident at one particular memory care center often gets confused at meal times, insisting that she eats at her own house. When brought to the dining area, however, she recognizes her table and the familiar faces around it and is quickly comforted.
Most people are referred to memory care facilities after an evaluation by a doctor or other medical professional. There are varying stages and degrees of Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions affecting memory. Therefore, there may be a wide range of the type of residents in a center. Some may exhibit mild forgetfulness while some may be unable to speak or walk; residents may be 40 or 100 years old; some may be reserved and some may be boisterous.
Tip: The cost of memory can vary, depending upon location, type of facility, and whether or not the care is facility-based or home-based. For more information about how much memory care costs, see The Cost of Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Memory Care.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.3 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease and 5.1 million are age 65 and older. Some forms of dementia can be effectively treated, but Alzheimer’s is a condition that is non-reversible. In either case, medication and other factors can slow the progression and prolong quality of life. Memory care centers are generally a rich resource of information about memory issues and will often schedule an informational meeting and/or assessment with family members.