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Memory care

Dementia is an umbrella term, which describes various brain disorders that affect both physical and mental health. A neurological, progressive condition, dementia leads to severe changes, including in terms of language, cognition, and memory. Given the gradual deterioration, it should come as no surprise that many people struggle to manage everyday living on their own. Family members or friends might act as caregivers for a while, but they cannot meet the very complex needs of dementia seniors. Feeling ill-equipped and burnt out, they might suggest alternative living solutions.

In the beginning, when their dementia manifestations are still manageable, many seniors might consider continuous care retirement communities and assisted living facilities. Both can accommodate the needs of someone with mild manifestations, but they are definitely not equipped for those with advanced dementia. In such cases, it is for the best to consider memory care centers. It is worth mentioning that some assisted living facilities have their own memory care units, thus being suited to seniors dealing with severe symptoms of dementia.

Memory care centers and units

Memory care centers are communities developed especially for those who suffer from various forms of dementia. Memory care facilities offer adapted housing, specialized care, and assistance with ADLs. Seniors are accepted provided they meet the admittance criteria, which include: age, confirmed diagnosis of dementia, presentation of current impairments, income, marital status, co-existing conditions, treatments, level of independence/assistance required. All residents undergo thorough examinations, with the purpose of identifying their current needs and challenges. Then, individual care plans are created, being updated regularly and after major health events.

Dementia seniors are assisted by trained personnel, who have both the necessary knowledge and practical experience to work with such residents. Aside from providing general services, the staff can help with daily living activities, such as eating, dressing, bathing, grooming, and toileting. They encourage residents to maintain their independence and contribute to each task, in accordance with their abilities. Moreover, they provide 24/7 monitoring, especially for those with advanced dementia. This has an obvious comfort value, but it also prevents seniors from wandering or suffering injuries.

Safety represents one of the top priorities in memory care communities. This is because dementia seniors have a hard time distinguishing between right and wrong, their judgment being impaired due to cognitive decline. Memory care centers employ a wide range of safety features, which not only reduce the risk of self-harm but also help seniors feel protected and thus less anxious. Common safety features include keyed or alarmed entries/exits, coded elevators, enclosed outdoor spaces. In some communities, residents are required to wear tracking bracelets. This allows them the freedom to explore outdoor spaces safely.

One of the main advantages of memory care centers is that seniors are able to work on preserving their current skills. Depending on the disease stage and their intrinsic motivation, they might even succeed in delaying the progression of dementia. Both these goals are achieved through daily therapy sessions, provided by some of the best specialists in the field. It is also common for memory care communities to create a routine filled with engaging activities, which contribute to these goals as well.

Another goal of memory care communities is to assisted dementia seniors in enjoying the best possible state of health. This is achieved through the provision of healthy meals and snacks, prepared from fresh ingredients, beneficial for the brain. In addition, seniors have access to specialized care, including wound care, incontinence care, diabetes care, etc. The staff is happy to provide mobility assistance and medication management, helping residents work towards improving their physical and mental health. In some centers, additional healthcare is available, such as short-term skilled nursing care.

When applying for a spot into a memory care community, it might be a good idea to know the potential reasons for which an application might be rejected. It is customary for such facilities to refuse those who require long-term skilled nursing care, hospice care, or any other type of care that cannot be provided within the respective center. The same goes for those who suffer from mental instability, posing a threat to themselves or others. Seniors who are bedridden, those with infectious conditions, and those with severe cognitive decline might be refused as well.

As mentioned above, some assisted living facilities have developed their own memory care units. The main goal was to meet the increased demand for memory care, given the ever-rising rates of those diagnosed with dementia. Just like memory care communities, these units offer adapted housing, specialized care, and assistance. Residents enjoy a predictable daily routine, filled with therapies and engaging activities. They feel safe and protected, thanks to the countless safety features, while therapy helps them work on their current skills and delay the progression of dementia.

Within memory care units, seniors are monitored by experienced personnel 24/7. As a result, dementia seniors are protected from wandering and self-harm. The staff also has experience in dealing with difficult situations, restoring a peaceful atmosphere. For couples, there is always the added advantage of being able to live on the same campus and see each other every day. One spouse can be in assisted living, while the other one can benefit from memory care. This is a great advantage to take into consideration.

What is memory care?

As you might have already figured out, memory care is dedicated to seniors who have been diagnosed with dementia. Memory care communities welcome older adults who suffer from different forms of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia, and Lewy Body dementia. They usually have a minimum acceptance age that varies between 55 and 62, providing residents with everything necessary to manage their condition. Thanks to the kindness and empathy of the trained staff, seniors are able to adjust fast, enjoying the daily routine and the various activities available.

By moving into a memory care community, seniors also have a lower chance of feeling alone or isolated. They can interact with other people who suffer from dementia, finding comfort in sharing their individual experiences. Moreover, many of the activities offered can be performed as a group, with the added benefit of socialization. The combination of professional care and 24/7 support ensures the highest possible standard of living. Given the fact that people with dementia might have very individual needs, such centers offer personalized care, in accordance to each resident's needs and preferences.

It is worth mentioning that memory care is not only meant to help seniors manage their symptoms. In addition, such communities take all the necessary measures to enrich the lives of their residents. They are always planning fun activities, with benefits for both physical and mental health. From birthday celebrations to live entertainment and off-site trips, residents are given the opportunity to re-discover the joy of everyday living. The available memory care programs are developed by cognitive aging specialists, after considering both needs and challenges experienced.

How much does memory care cost?

The average national cost of memory care is $5,000 per month. Seniors who are interested in this type of care will discover that the respective cost varies considerably from one state to the other, as well as within each state. Depending on each state, you might find that the overall cost of memory care varies between $4,000 and $8,700. This is considerably lower than other long-term care options, such as nursing home care. There are towns in which memory care communities might be more affordable, and this is the reason why a thorough research is recommended.

One of the most important factors that influence the average cost is the type/level of care provided. A thorough research can help seniors identify the best community for their needs and budget. In most states, free assistance is available. One should also consider the fact that healthcare is not always included in the respective fees. Many memory care communities accept third-party providers for specialized healthcare. In this situation, the associated costs have to be covered by residents and are not included in the monthly fees.

Services provided by memory care facilities

Memory care communities provide residents with access to the most diverse services. These are provided by trained staff, freeing seniors from the burden of daily chores. As a result, they can focus on managing their symptoms and take delight in the more pleasant activities available on the campus. Among the most common general services offered, one might find the following: 24/7 monitoring, general maintenance, Internet and telephone access, housekeeping, scheduled transportation, errand running and shopping, laundry and linen service, meal planning and preparation.

As previously mentioned, all the residents in the respective memory care community receive assistance with ADLs. Depending on the disease severity and the associated symptoms, seniors can be assisted with one or more daily living activities. The staff will encourage residents to maintain their independence for as long as possible, offering assistance only when necessary. Specialized care is offered, as mentioned above, including diabetes care, wound care, incontinence care, mobility assistance, and medication management. With the latter, seniors are monitored while taking their treatment or the staff can handle the respective task themselves.

Amenities provided by memory care facilities

When it comes to housing, seniors can choose between apartments or bedroom-style units. All the housing units are adapted to their complex needs, and seniors have the freedom to decide whether they want to live alone or with another resident. A functional emergency response system is available in case of major health events, and housing units are also equipped with safety and accessibility features. Even the bathrooms have their own safety features, with the goal of preventing common accidents, such as slipping and falling on wet surfaces. The idea is to prevent injuries that could lead to immobility and other complications.

Seniors have access to a wide range of amenities, which target physical and mental health. These are easily integrated into the daily routine, delivering the benefits of stimulation and socialization. Among the most popular amenities available, there are: fitness, yoga, swimming, guided walks, off-site trips, social clubs, weekly religious service, birthday celebrations and other group events, memory garden, computer, library, etc. Each memory care community might offer additional amenities.

Benefits of memory care

The diagnosis of dementia forces seniors to think about their future and what will happen. While it is not easy to leave their home and move into a memory care community, one should consider the benefits incurred. To make the decision-making process easier, we have gathered a list of potential advantages.

These are some of the reasons dementia seniors should consider memory care:

  • Adapted housing – housing units designed in the style of apartments or bedrooms, with safety and accessibility features, as well as emergency response systems in case of major health events
  • Healthy meals and snacks – prepared on a daily basis, always from fresh ingredients, beneficial for brain health (dietary adjustments also allowed)
  • Assistance with ADLs – depending on their illness stage and severity, seniors can be assisted with one or more daily living activities (eating, grooming, bathing, toileting, dressing, etc.)
  • Specialized care – available from the respective community or third-party providers; includes wound care, diabetes care, incontinence care, mobility assistance, medication management
  • General services – free seniors from the burden of chores, leaving them with more time to engage in stimulating activities
  • Dementia-specific therapies – these help seniors manage their symptoms and even delay the progression of their condition
  • Predictable but stimulating daily routine – seniors have countless opportunities for socialization and interaction, enjoying activities that benefit both physical and mental health
  • Safety as top priority – the staff monitors residents at all times, plus there are safety features employed to prevent wandering and potential accidents
  • Individual care plans – these are created in the beginning, right after admittance, being updated every couple of months and always after major health events
  • By choosing the memory care units of assisted living facilities, couples have the opportunity to live within the same campus and benefit from different levels of care

If you are not certain which memory care community might be the best, you might consider taking tours of various facilities. During these tours, you can ask detailed questions, which will be happily answered by the staff. The answers can help you narrow down your search and settle on a community that meets your needs in every possible way.

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