Until there’s a cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, watching the progressive effects on loved ones can be distressing as you worry about their safety, daily needs, and quality of life.
The question of whether a memory care facility is right for your situation depends on many factors. Each individual is different just as the family members offering support and making decisions are different. Here’s what you need to know about memory care and whether it’s the right path for your loved one.
What is Memory Care?
Just because a facility offers assisted living or nursing care does not mean it’s set-up for memory care. Memory care is a subset of those services offering smaller staff-to-patient ratios and specialized programs that meet the medical, safety, and social needs of people living with dementia as well as other forms of cognitive impairment.
“Oftentimes, people think of treating the disease, and that’s the wrong framing – we focus on providing care for the patient who has the disease,” says Alvaro Pascual-Leone, M.D. Effective memory care takes a holistic approach to promote mental wellness and that should include “care for the family, too”.
When is it Time for A Memory Care Program?
Determining if someone you love should enter a memory care residence can be difficult, not to mention the added emotional impact of having to make such a heart-wrenching decision. There are times, however, when choosing memory care is the best option for the patient and their family.
Dr. Elaine Healy has outlined five behaviors and circumstances that can indicate someone needs memory care:
- Changes in behavior – People with dementia may have a drastic shift in personality or start acting in dramatically different ways. A loved one that was once quite independent might suddenly be reluctant about driving, become more inward and withdrawn, neglect daily hygiene and basic tasks, or even get easily anxious and agitated over simple interactions.
- Confusion that impacts physical safety – Disorientation is common with dementia. Some may forget traffic rules and run through a red light while others can wander from home without remembering how to get back. When a loved one’s safety is at an ongoing risk, it’s time to consider memory care.
- Decline in physical health – According to Healy, “physical changes are often the first noticeable differences when someone has dementia or Alzheimer’s. “ A loved one may stop grocery shopping or taking medications which then result in weight loss and/or frailty. Some people take more medication than directed which can also dramatically impact physical health.
- A caregiver’s deterioration or death – At the onset of a dementia diagnosis, many people are cared for by relatives, in most cases a spouse or partner. But, when that caregiver dies or has health issues of his/her own, it often means the one they were caring for will now need a higher level of attention. Dr. Rhonna Shatz shares an example of a patient with Alzheimer’s whose health was declining rapidly. He’d lost weight and was becoming increasingly disoriented. Shatz learned that his wife, his primary caregiver, was also developing dementia and could no longer shop, prepare meals or oversee his medications. Their daughter stepped in and arranged for both to move into a memory care facility.
- Incontinence – Caregivers take on a lot of responsibility, but when incontinence becomes a significant problem, many find it’s time to look into memory care. Incontinence may be the final stage of what they can handle without external intervention.
Choosing A Memory Care Facility
As you begin to evaluate memory care options, you’ll want to do your research given the range of facilities and levels of care provided. Some important considerations include:
- Type of facility – There are three different types of residences to choose from.
- Assisted living is great for individuals with mild to moderate stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s that are still living mostly independently and only require supportive care.
- A dedicated memory care community is a specialized form of assisted living that provides comprehensive care in a more secure setting. Residents can still move around freely, but with more oversight and limitations.
- Skilled nursing facilities are designed to meet the needs of patients with more advanced health needs. Greater emphasis is placed on medical treatment for those with chronic or complex illnesses.
- Atmosphere and staffing – Walk around the facility to gauge cleanliness and get a feel for the environment. Ask questions about the number of residents as well as how many specially trained care providers are on staff.
- What’s included – Not all facilities offer the same services and amenities. Some include transportation and access to tertiary care (like dentistry and audiology) while others plan activities for residents (like social gatherings and gardening).
Have a Plan
The best time to start planning is before you need to worry about placement. It can be hard to imagine ever having to put a loved one into memory care. Unfortunately, sometimes “never” arrives even when we try to believe it won’t.
Moving a loved one to a facility doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Having a previously agreed-upon plan can make a world of difference when facing the placement process. Spend time researching residences, assess the financial implications, ask your loved ones how they’d like to be cared for, and discuss with them how much responsibility you can take on. Taking the time to prepare and engage in these conversations before cognitive decline sets in will ultimately result in less drama and fewer surprises in the long run.
South Coast Post Acute Provides Top-Tier Memory Care
South CoastPost Acute is one of Southern California’s premier post-acute residences with a specialty in memory care. Our services are designed to engage patients living with dementia in a safe and healthy environment. To achieve this, we focus on: diet, personalized treatment, and effective care techniques. Reach out today for more information. We look forward to having you in for a visit or answering any questions you may have.