Memory Care Guide
Memory care is a special type of care designed for seniors experiencing memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. It includes housing and 24-hour nursing care in a secure environment. These facilities are designed with quality of life and safety in mind.
Reisberg Scale (Stages of Dementia)
There are many different stages to loss of memory. It’s important that you don’t try and evaluate your loved one’s cognitive ability yourself. A trained doctor will be able to assess all the different facets of memory and cognition to determine your loved one’s abilities. The Reisberg scale was defined to help people understand the different stages people go through as memory declines.
Stage 1 – There are no visible signs of cognitive decline. However, the brain may be experiencing changes.
Stage 2 – A little forgetful at times, which is often brushed off as a typical sign of getting older.
Stage 3 – Cognitive impairment is still mild but may start to influence work performance. Someone at this stage may start getting lost in places they are familiar with, may struggle to find the right words, and may forget people’s names after being introduced.
Stage 4 – Simple tasks like managing finances will become more difficult. People at this stage will struggle to remember recent news, will have a hard time in social environments, and will be in denial about their symptoms.
Stage 5 – Daily tasks like picking out clothes and getting dressed will become a challenge. They will forget things like numbers, counting, addresses, phone numbers, and other personal information. This stage is very disorienting as your loved one may even forget the time or year.
Stage 6 – This stage comes with increased memory loss. People at this stage may forget who their spouse is. They won’t be able to perform simple tasks like bathing and dressing. Agitation, mood changes, and aggressive behavior is common at this stage.
Stage 7 – In this final stage on the Reisberg scale, patients will be unable to care for themselves. They will need assistance using the toilet, walking, and won’t be able to speak.
What Services Do Memory Care Facilities Offer?
Memory care facilities provide a secure environment where people receive everything they need. Residents in these facilities need a wide range of services depending on their cognitive and physical abilities. Some of the services you can expect include:
- Hygiene assistance
- Personal care
- Medication dispensing
- Transportation to activities and appointments
- Activities designed to improve memory
- Someone to clean and do laundry
- Healthy meals and assistance with eating
- 24-hour care in securely locked facilities
What Benefits Do Memory Care Facilities Provide?
As the memory starts to fade and cognitive decline becomes sharper, many families struggle to provide adequate care for their loved ones at home. Memory care is designed to support the unique needs of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. They not only provide for the essentials of bathing, toileting, feeding, and mobility, they offer services that can stimulate the mind and boost quality of life.
Memory care facilities are often locked to reduce the risk of wandering. One of the problems that occurs with memory loss is that patients don’t know where they are, and wandering can be very dangerous for them. Memory care gives them a safe location to live and thrive.
The layouts of the rooms and hallways are specially designed to lessen confusion and disorientation. There are more staff members available. They help to coordinate care with doctors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and other care providers.
Care at these homes is focused on meeting the needs of each individual. They take a person-centered approach. They also provide hobby activities, events, exercise, and more to encourage mental stimulation and human connection. These are vital for the care of people who experience memory loss.
How Does Memory Care Benefit Older Adults With Memory Loss?
The symptoms of dementia get worse over time. The progressive nature of this mental decline makes it challenging for them to live independently and be cared for at home by family and friends. As the disease progresses, people with dementia become increasingly aggressive and combative. This poses safety concerns for caring for them in the home. Memory care provides the benefit of highly trained caregivers who can help diffuse and de-escalate these tricky situations.
The facilities are secure and provide 24-hour care. You don’t need to wait until morning or go to an emergency room if care is needed “after-hours”. Nurses and staff are able to care for most of their needs on-site. Memory care also gives family members support, ongoing resources, and
How Is Memory Care Different Than Other Types Of Senior Care?
Assisted Living vs Memory Care
Assisted living facilities often have individual apartments and staff on site. The staff are available for urgent needs, or to provide basic personal care such as assistance with cleaning, laundry, or cooking. Residents can also receive help with medication reminders, and home health aides. They are designed for people who can live mostly on their own but just need a little help. Assisted living facilities often have group activities and transportation so that residents can still shop and live an independent life.
Nursing homes provide skilled nursing care for patients with 24-hour care needs. They are a live-in facility that can sometimes house more than one person to a room. While some patients have mild dementia, they are not designed specifically to meet the needs of those patients. They have higher patient to caregiver ratios, doors that people can wander out of, and activities not geared toward those with memory loss.
Senior apartments are for older adults who can live independently but want to live in an apartment designed with them in mind. They often feature railings in the hallways, walk in showers, and services like a swimming pool or fitness center. They are not designed for families, and can be quieter and less distracting.
People love the comfort of home. Home care is powerful for people who are able to receive care in that way. Home care workers come in to provide personal care, mobility, occupational therapy and more. This allows people to remain in their home where they feel best. They can choose when family can visit, what meals to make and so much more.
Since memory care is uniquely designed to meet the needs of people with memory loss, many of the other care options are inadequate. As memory fades, home care, assisted living, and senior apartments aren’t able to provide for the level of care that dementia and Alzheimer’s patients need. Some nursing homes have memory care units, but in the later stages of memory loss, even these facilities don’t always have everything they need.
Which Type Of Care Is Best For My Loved One?
It’s important to work with care providers to determine the level of memory loss your loved one has. They may be able to live home a little longer with in home care or may need to be moved to a facility. It’s up to you to compare all of the services that each type of facility offers near you. If you know your loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s, memory care will offer the greatest range of services to help them thrive.
You can determine what kind of care they need by understanding the things they are still able to do on their own. If they can no longer drive, how will they get to the store to purchase groceries and other wanted and needed items? Can they still walk independently? Are they at risk of falling? How frequently can you or a caregiver help them?
How Will I Know When It’s Time For Memory Care?
As memory declines it becomes more challenging to provide care for people at home. Memory care gives them the dignity they deserve and a safe home to be that provides activities to supports their waning memory.
Here are some key indicators that it might be time for memory care:
- It gets more difficult to manage challenging dementia behaviors, like agitation and aggression, in the home.
- You loved one isn’t caring for their hygiene needs.
- Sleep disturbances are affecting everyone.
- Your loved one wanders alone and doesn’t know where they are and how they got there. You are worried about their safety.
- Your home isn’t able to provide safety from fall risks and other accidents.
- You cannot keep up with complex medication and supplement needs.
- Your loved one struggles to eat and get all the nutrition they need. They are losing weight and looking unhealthy.
- You’re an overwhelmed caregiver who cannot provide care 24 hours a day. You’re concerned about your own health and safety and that of your family in the home.
Take the time to consider all the different aspects of caring for someone with dementia in your home. Can you keep them safe from falling? Is it dangerous if they wander? Can you manage all their medications, appointments, and other health needs? Can you help them stay active to slow their mental decline?
Many people struggle with a sense of grief over their loved ones losing their memory. This feeling is natural because as the memory fades, so does the personality and all the unique things you love about that person. Without those shared memories, they become a shell of themselves and this can be traumatic and heartbreaking all in one.
How Much Does Memory Care Cost?
Memory care can cost in the thousands of dollars a month. This is typically all-inclusive and takes care of everything your loved one would need 24/7. Most people do not have the liquid funds to take care of these needs without some help. Some of the ways that people pay for memory care are:
- Veterans Benefits – The VA has many options that former military use to cover these costs late in life.
- Loans – Bridge loans in particular help you cover the costs while you wait for the sale of a home or assets to pay for their care.
- Home Equity – if you don’t want to sell their home just yet, you may be able to leverage a home equity loan to cover the cost of memory care.
- Insurance (Long-term care and Life insurance)
What Should I Look For In A Memory Care Facility?
Try and choose a location that is convenient for you. One that is nearby your work or home would enable you to more easily stop in and visit. If you choose one too far away, you may struggle to see your loved one as much as you think.
While there are many ways to pay for memory care, cost is always a factor. Try to choose one within a comfortable range based on your resources.
There are a wide range of services offered by memory care homes. Look at all the services and how it will impact your loved one’s quality of life. Also investigate what types of outdoor spaces they offer.
Different homes have different policies. Make sure the one you choose meets your needs when you are most likely to visit.
How Do I Transition My Loved One To Memory Care?
When you switch to a memory care center, it’s important to bring as many personal items as possible. Pictures of family, blankets, clothes, and other items help bring a sense of comfort. Even if they no longer recognize those things, when their memory is good, it helps them connect to their new home.
The transition starts with having a conversation with your loved one. They may be frustrated or angry and this is normal. Share as much or as little as you think they can handle. Focus on the positive aspects of living in their new home. Highlight the benefits and it will help them and their health.
You can even help them downsize before they go and let them choose what they want to bring with them right away. You can consider hiring specialty help to communicate and help move the personal items to the care facility.