Alzheimer’s disease is the common form of dementia, whose effect is a progressive loss of cognitive abilities. Some families may choose to place their loved one with Alzheimer’s into a memory care community, a type of long-term care that is designed to meet the needs of a person with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. It provides around the clock care and assistance with the tasks of daily life, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, medications, etc. They also provide daily recreational programming and outings, all tailored to your loved one’s ability, so there is always something fun and social to do.
Memory care areas are typically situated within assisted living communities, but can also be standalone communities. Availability varies based on the area you live in and if there is space at the community. Because laws vary from state to state, it’s important to ask specific questions about what type of care is provided in a memory care community to ensure that the level of care is appropriate for your loved one.
When deciding whether it’s time for memory care, it can be helpful to consider these questions offered by the Alzheimer’s Association:
- Is the person with dementia becoming unsafe in his/her current home?
- Is the health of the person with dementia (or the health of the caregiver) at risk?
- Do the person's care needs extend beyond the caregiver’s emotional and/or physical abilities?
- Would the structure and social interaction provided at a memory care facility benefit the person with dementia?
The difference between assisted living and memory care is that memory care communities have staff which are specially trained on caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Activities are planned with the population in mind, designed to support socialization and stimulate cognitive abilities. Additionally, memory care communities are secured to ensure consistent and familiar surroundings, and to prevent wandering – a major behavioral issue with people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Costs depend on the level of care the individual needs, as well as the size of the room, whether it’s private or shared, plus the community’s geographical location.
In considering whether any particular assisted living or memory care area can meet the needs of an individual suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, there are three major considerations: how good is the quality of the care, how robust is the activity program and finally, how well-laid-out and maintained is the facility?
Here are some things to look out for when touring a prospective community:
- Is the facility responsive to family requests, and do they allow family members to visit at any time?
- Does the community resemble a home or nice hotel, light and airy? Are common areas actually used by residents?
- How does the staff interact with you and with the residents? Are they friendly? Do they seem to know the residents well?
- Is the calendar of activities varied and aimed at meeting the social, physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the residents? Is there arts programming? Are activities led by skilled activity coordinators?
- How is the care staff trained? An ongoing training program is important to ensure that staff is aware of current best practices for care.
- What are the rooms or apartments like? Is the dining area pleasant? Check out the bathrooms, as well as the room in which the person will live, in order to evaluate whether the privacy needs of the individual will be met.
- Is the building well-maintained, with rooms and furniture clean, odor-free, and in good repair?
When being given a tour, make notes regarding the above situations. This way, you can always refer back to them and refresh your memory when it comes time to make a decision. Ask questions and expect good answers in return.
Transitioning a loved one into any kind of assisted living or memory care situation can be stressful and emotional, but bear in mind that gathering good information in advance can relieve some of the worry and help maximize the chance of making the right decisions. Regardless of where the care takes place, it should be a priority that the person you care about receives the care that he or she really needs, in a safe and caring environment.