If your parent or grandparent struggles with memory impairment, or if you’re responsible for that person’s care, you already know that symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia gradually worsen and there comes a time when living at home is no longer an option.
Sooner or later, you’ll be faced with a gut-wrenching decision: Is your aging parent or grandparent ready for long-term care such as assisted living or skilled nursing, or will they benefit more from specialized memory care?
There are a number of good reasons to consider memory care. Here are seven of the most common:
1. Memory care staff has specialized training: Staff at memory care communities undergo special training that ensures they understand the unique needs of people with memory loss. They are coached how to deal with frustration and discouragement and they encourage residents to socialize and participate in activities that keep them engaged and stimulated. Personalized care is tailored to each individual’s personalities, interests, needs and abilities; residents receive assistance as needed with bathing, dressing, medications and challenges with mobility.
2. Memory care communities are safe and secure: Memory care communities take great care to provide a safe, welcoming, homelike atmosphere. Entries are securely but discreetly locked and people are monitored around the clock. It’s difficult for people to lose their freedom and independence, but a strategic design provides opportunities for moving about freely so residents are safe without feeling trapped or “locked up.” Small but important details include non-slip flooring and color-coded hallways to help people find their way around.
3. There are enjoyable activities and chances for socialization: Activities and special events are a critical aspect of quality memory care. Research indicates that carefully planned activities may slow progression of cognitive impairment while boosting self-esteem and promoting healthy socialization. Most importantly, the activities, suitable for each person’s interest and ability levels, are just plain fun. Residents may work on a project independently, or they may prefer to join a group activity. Family members are encouraged to participate.
4. Challenges of daily life are eased: Life gets increasingly more difficult as memory problems progress, and simple tasks like shopping, laundry and paying bills become major challenges. It’s common for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia to forget to take their medications, or to take too much. They may have trouble preparing meals, so nutrition falls by the wayside and dehydration may become a problem. Shaving, showering and other personal hygiene may be forgotten and housekeeping tasks may fall behind. Potential dangers include leaving appliances on or falling prey to unscrupulous marketers – all non-issues when a person moves to a memory care community.
5. Feelings of depression and isolation are lessened: The typical difficulties of aging are compounded with the development of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It isn’t uncommon for people to feel isolated and lonely, especially when a spouse dies or old friends move away. People who can no longer enjoy a busy life and full calendar become anxious and restless. Although difficult emotions can still exist, memory care communities provide opportunities to socialize with others and participate in a range of events, outings and activities. The atmosphere is friendly and pleasant. Friends and family are encouraged to visit as often as possible.
6. Caregiver burnout is relieved: Caregiver stress is one of the primary reasons people consider memory care. If you’re a caregiver, you may feel mentally and physically drained and exhausted, especially if you hold down a job, you still have children at home, or you’re getting into your own retirement years. Remember: you’re only one person and no matter how much you love your aging parent, you can only do so much. Eventually, the stress will take a toll on your physical health and may even strain your personal relationships. Moving a loved one to memory care relieves the pressure and allows you to take care of yourself, which means you have more energy to enjoy quality time with your loved one.
7. Staff understands how to handle aggressive or difficult behaviors: Aggression, which may include difficult behaviors such as yelling, swearing, biting, scratching, hitting, throwing things, or making weird noises, is fairly common among people with Alzheimer’s. This behavior is extremely difficult to handle at home, but memory care staff learns to recognize the triggers of anger and frustration and how to respond with patience and compassion when residents lash out. Staff also understands how to reduce stress for people who show signs of confusion late in the day, also known as “sundowning.”
If you have any additional questions about someone facing memory impairment, please reach out to us and someone on our staff would be more than happy to help!