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What is Memory Care?

When your aging loved one reaches the stage that caring for them at home no longer seems sustainable, you’ll find many different categories of senior living options. Trying to figure out which one is the right choice for your loved one can be challenging, so it helps to understand just what to expect of each type of senior care facility available.

Memory care is one of the most specialized types of senior living facilities you’ll find. With nearly 44 million seniors currently living with Alzheimer’s, many assisted living homes and nursing homes have branched into providing the specialized care required for patients with memory problems.

As any caregiver with experience taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia knows, many of the needs and challenges that arise are distinct. Memory care takes all those unique needs into account.

What Makes Memory Care Different?

As with other types of assisted living facilities, memory care homes will offer the same assistance with the daily tasks of life, such as providing meals, dispensing medications, and helping seniors get dressed and bathed each day. Where they differ is in providing additional services and care particular to the needs of patients with memory issues.

Staff members are specially trained.

Staff members at a memory care facility are trained in what to expect from patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and know the particular types of care they need. They’ll provide all those same assisted living services that staff at other facilities do, but will do it with the special concerns and challenges of the illness your loved one has top of mind.

More stringent security measures are put in place.

Alzheimer’s patients are prone to wandering. If they’re able to, they’ll walk right out the door and keep walking – endlessly looking for a place in their memory they may or may not ever find. Memory care facilities are therefore designed to make leaving difficult (except for those with permission to come and go (like you and other family members interested in visiting). Often the doors to leave will require a code or you’ll need to be let out by a staff member.

Activities are planned with the needs of memory care patients in mind.

The activities that a memory care facility plans for their patients will be designed to keep them calm, avoid confusion, and wherever possible, help them remember old hobbies and interests that keep them connected to the life and identity they struggle to remember.

How Do I Know if Memory Care is Right for My Loved One?

If you’re not sure yet whether your loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia, but you’re starting to expect that it’s a possibility, take a look at the most common Alzheimer’s symptoms to look out for. It never hurts to bring up your concerns with a trusted doctor to see what they have to say.

If your loved one already has an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, then you should consider seeking out a memory care facility specifically. If they’re not showing serious symptoms yet and you feel they could still live comfortably in an independent living or assisted care facility, that could still be an option at this point. But you want to consider now whether moving them in a year or two will be a stressful or confusing enough experience that it’s better to choose the facility now that they’re likely to need within a couple of years.

How Do I Find the Right Memory Care Facility?

Do a search to find what memory care homes are located close to you. Once you’ve identified your closest options:

  • Research what they offer – find out what services and amenities are available and consider if they cover your loved one’s needs (and wants).
  • Read the reviews – what other people say about their experiences will give you a good idea of what to expect.
  • Check the cost – memory care can get expensive – you have to weigh what you want for your loved one against what your family can afford. Check to see if the facilities you’re considering take Medicare or your insurance, as that can make a big difference in your out-of-pocket costs.
  • Visit in person – once you’ve narrowed down your options, pay each home a visit to see how you like it. Ask lots of questions to get a better idea of what they offer, how the home is run, and whether it’s right for your loved one’s care.

Moving your loved one into a senior care facility is never easy, but in many cases it’s the best choice for both you and them. Making sure you find the home that’s the best fit for their needs can make the transition much easier on everyone.  

References: Hicks, Kristen. (2015, September). What is Memory Care. SeniorAdvisor.com. Retrieved from https://www.senioradvisor.com/blog/2015/09/what-is-memory-care/.

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