What is Memory Care?
A memory care facility is a residential living community that serves older adults with dementia or Alzheimer's disease who need personalized care and assistance with performing everyday activities. These facilities place an emphasis on improving the quality of life for people with memory conditions, and offer services and amenities that help slow the progression of dementia or that may help improve certain symptoms. Memory care facilities are highly similar to assisted living communities, but also offer 24-hour supervision, have simple layouts designed to minimize wandering, and are staffed with experienced healthcare professionals devoted to providing quality care to your loved one with Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
In this write up, we will go over some memory care basics to help you learn more and make the best choice.
What does a Memory Care Facility do?
Alzheimer's disease and dementia can affect one's thinking, behavior, and social skills in ways that disrupt the ability to function independently and perform essential daily tasks. Many relatives of those with Alzheimer's disease and dementia are often unable to offer their loved ones the level of support and care they need as their memory conditions progress. Memory care facilities can help families relax and give them peace of mind by caring for their loved ones in safe, supervised environments designed to meet the needs of those with memory conditions.
Here are other benefits of memory care for people with Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
At home, people with dementia can easily wander outside at any time and get lost or walk directly into traffic while being unaware of their actions and surroundings. They may also leave on stoves and ovens after cooking, or forget to properly turn off and store hot irons after ironing their clothing.
Confusion, wandering, and getting lost are common characteristics and signs of Alzheimer's disease, but memory care facilities feature simple layouts that help minimize and prevent residents from wandering and putting themselves at risk. These facilities also offer 24-hour supervision and monitoring to manage other behaviors that may compromise the safety of your loved one and other residents.
Alzheimer's disease and dementia are commonly accompanied by isolation, especially when communication becomes increasingly difficult and frustrating as the memory disease progresses. Long-time friends may lose patience or spend more time with others without dementia, while relatives may be preoccupied with managing their own jobs and households and lack extra time to spend with loved ones with dementia.
Memory care facilities offer a wide range of activities that promote social interaction between residents, and that can minimize isolation. When left unaddressed, isolation can worsen dementia and trigger or worsen comorbid conditions such as depression.
Help with Daily Tasks
Nearly all memory care assisted living communities help residents perform essential daily tasks related to bathing, using the restroom, grooming, taking medications, and more. Cooking and housekeeping services are also provided by many of these facilities to make daily living easier and more enjoyable for those with Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Stimulating and Therapeutic Activities
Dementia can grow progressively worse in those who stay inactive or who do not challenge their brains and memories with engaging and stimulating activities. Memory care facilities offer a variety of individual and group activities designed to enhance and stimulate cognitive activity in those with dementia. Live entertainment, arts and crafts, music therapy, dancing, and exercise are some of the many fun, stimulating, and therapeutic activities available at memory care facilities for residents with Alzheimer's and dementia.
Focus on Nutrition
Many people with dementia struggle with maintaining good nutrition and a healthy diet on behalf of the symptoms associated with their condition. They may forget to eat, lack the energy and patience to cook, or feel confused about which foods are healthy and which are not.
Certain foods and nutrients have been found to help prevent Alzheimer's and improve symptoms of dementia, such as fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, and legumes. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) reports that blueberries, leafy greens, and curcumin contain antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties that may protect the brain and boost cognition. Memory care facilities can help residents manage their diets and can serve nutritious meals that provide residents with the nutrients needed to benefit from improved cognition and overall health.
Highly Trained Caregivers
Caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer's often requires a great amount of experience, patience, and personal interaction, as well as the physical strength needed to help them bathe and perform other activities. Memory care facilities are staffed with highly trained caregivers and healthcare professionals who understand how dementia affects one's daily living. These professionals are trained to recognize subtle changes in dementia and health, and they can collaborate with other healthcare professionals to ensure your loved one is receiving the level of care needed to effectively manage their memory condition.
What Are the Differences Between Assisted Living and Memory Care?
Memory and dementia care homes offer many of the same services and amenities as assisted living, but place more emphasis on improving the quality of life for people with Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Assisted living is a senior living environment in which residents can receive assistance with performing normal daily tasks while maintaining their independence. Memory care offers the same assisted living services, but arranges for them to be carried out by staff members professionally trained to care for patients with dementia. Memory care units also feature simple layouts that help minimize wandering associated with dementia, along with activities designed to enhance the memory or slow down the progression of dementia.
Memory care provides 24-hour security and supervision services to help residents stay safe, while assisted living offers more privacy and independence for seniors who are typically more self-sufficient. Additionally, many rooms and apartments in memory care units lack kitchens to prevent kitchen-related accidents caused by those with dementia, while assisted living units provide at least a kitchenette or many of the same amenities as a regular home.
What is the Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer's?
Dementia and Alzheimer's disease are terms often used interchangeably to describe memory loss and impairment; however, these terms do not share the same meaning.
Dementia is a general term used to describe a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in mental ability and the inability to perform normal daily activities. Dementia is characterized by memory loss and impairment, decreased focus and attention, poor judgment, and deficits in language, thinking, and communication skills. Alzheimer's disease is just one type of dementia.
The main difference between dementia and Alzheimer's is that Alzheimer's is a specific disease, while dementia is not. Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia, and is a progressive brain disease that gradually causes memory impairment and cognitive decline. Other types of dementia include Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Is Alzheimer's Treatment Available with Memory Care?
Most memory care facilities offer treatment for Alzheimer's disease, though it is important to confirm whether Alzheimer's treatment is included before choosing a facility. Dementia and Alzheimer's disease affect each person differently and at varying severity levels; therefore, it is important to look for a memory care unit that develops individualized treatment plans for each patient. Look for an accredited and certified memory care unit that has been recognized for delivering safe, effective, and quality care to residents with cognitive impairments. These facilities will have an organized, evidence-based approach to the maintenance and treatment of memory conditions.
Additionally, ask each memory care unit about its unique Alzheimer's treatment approach. Some facilities may focus on using medications, while others may focus on alternative medicine and healthy lifestyle changes. Knowing more about the different approaches to Alzheimer's treatment can help you choose a facility with treatment practices that align with the healthcare preferences and needs of your loved one.
You should expect that, the caregivers and staff members at a memory care facility should be highly familiar with the symptoms and signs of Alzheimer's disease, and will monitor your loved one closely for changes in health and behavior during their residency. Any changes or progression in symptoms should be noted and implemented into your loved one's Alzheimer's treatment and dementia care plan.
What Causes Alzheimer's Disease?
The exact causes of Alzheimer's disease remain unknown; however, scientists have identified several risk factors that may increase a person's risk of developing the condition. Researchers are also performing ongoing studies to identify certain brain proteins that may play a role in the development of Alzheimer's and dementia.
Here are common risk factors associated with Alzheimer's disease.
The CDC reports that age is the best-known risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's symptoms typically show up after the age of 60, and the number of people with Alzheimer's doubles every five years after the age of 65.
Certain Lifestyle Behaviors
Alzheimer's disease and heart disease share many of the same lifestyle-related risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and lack of exercise. Poor nutrition has also been associated with both Alzheimer's and heart disease. Many of these lifestyle factors affect blood flow, including that to the brain, which may explain their link to memory loss and dementia.
Lack of Mental and Social Engagement
A low education level has been linked to Alzheimer's, as well as low levels of mental and social stimulation.
A Cerebrum paper available via the National Institutes of Health reports that keeping the brain active may help prevent Alzheimer's disease. Reading, listening to music, creating art, and doing crossword puzzles can effectively stimulate and challenge the brain to stave off symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
Poor Sleep Patterns
Sleeping less than eight hours per night, experiencing frequent sleep disturbances, staying awake at night, and sleeping during the day have all been linked to an increased risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease. These sleep patterns can disrupt the human circadian rhythm, along with certain important nighttime brain functions that contribute to good overall health.
Other Risk Factors
Down syndrome, past severe head trauma, gender, and mild cognitive impairment are other factors that may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Though some risk factors of Alzheimer's may not be preventable, many are modifiable, such as smoking, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition. Quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and eating more healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, may go a long way toward preventing the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's.
Is Alzheimer's Genetic?
Scientists report that Alzheimer's disease may be caused by genetic, environmental, or lifestyle factors, or a combination of all three. The NIA reports that some physicians may use genetic testing to help diagnose early-onset Alzheimer's disease and to test people with a strong family history of the disease.
Though Alzheimer's disease has been linked to genetic components, a family history of Alzheimer's disease may not necessarily mean that others in the family will inevitably develop this memory condition. A 2019 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that those with a high genetic risk of developing Alzheimer's were able to significantly reduce their risk of dementia by practicing healthy lifestyle behaviors. Exercising regularly, eating healthy foods, not smoking, and consuming moderate-to-low amounts of alcohol were all linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer's in those at high genetic risk.
What Activities Are Provided with Memory Care?
Most memory care facilities provide residents with activities that can stimulate the brain, slow disease progression, and potentially bring back long-forgotten memories. The activities available at memory care facilities can greatly improve your loved one's quality of life; boost their self-esteem; and strengthen the connection and relationship between yourself and your loved one with dementia.
Here are activities that may be available with your loved one's dementia care plan.
- Browsing albums featuring photos taken throughout their life including photos of their friends and relatives
- Reading their favorite books and novels
- Reading old letters and cards
- Listening to music, especially music from your loved one's earlier years
- Singing songs or playing musical instruments
- Working on various puzzles, such as crossword puzzles or jigsaw puzzles
- Playing board games with caregivers and other residents
- Cooking their favorite meals or old family recipes
- Engaging in outdoor activities such as gardening, walking, or golfing
- Engaging in their favorite hobbies, such as bowling, knitting, and painting
- Seasonal decorating for various holidays and celebrations throughout the year
- Caring for pets or spending time with animals
How Can I Tell If My Loved One Has Alzheimer's Disease?
In 2014, Alzheimer's disease affected at least 5 million people in the U.S. or 1.6% of the population. Another report from the CDC states that by the year 2060, there will be at least 13.9 million people in the U.S. living with Alzheimer's, or about 3.3% of the population. Given the estimated prevalence of Alzheimer's disease, it's highly possible that someone you know in your family or community could be suffering from Alzheimer's disease, but how can you tell?
Early Signs of Alzheimer's
Memory loss is the key symptom of Alzheimer's disease, and one of the most common signs of early-onset Alzheimer's. Your loved one may start becoming more forgetful, especially when it comes to remembering important dates and events such as birthdays and holidays.
Other early signs of Alzheimer's may include:
Difficulty working with numbers, such as when budgeting and paying bills
Difficulty with solving minor problems, such as how to untie a shoelace knot
Difficulty with driving a vehicle
Difficulty with performing routine daily tasks, such as putting away dishes or taking a shower
Losing or misplacing items frequently
Problems with communication, such as forgetting certain words or repeating recent conversations
Changes in vision, such as vision loss or impairment
Problems with judgment and with making decisions
Decline in personal hygiene, such as neglecting to bathe or brush teeth
Avoidance of social events and spending more time in isolation
Sudden, extreme changes in mood and behavior
If your loved one has been exhibiting any one or more of the above signs, it's possible they may be developing Alzheimer's or dementia.
Common Alzheimer's Symptoms
Many early signs of Alzheimer's disease are synonymous with common symptoms of Alzheimer's. As this disease progresses, memory loss gradually worsens to cause serious problems with one's ability to adequately function at work or at home.
Common Alzheimer's symptoms include:
Asking the same questions repeatedly
Repeating the same statements
Forgetting the names and faces of friends and relatives
Wandering and getting lost
Misplacing items and possessions
Inability to have conversations due to difficulty with remembering words and expressing thoughts
Inability to properly multitask
Inability to make reasonable decisions
Changes in sleeping patterns
Irritability and mood swings
Loss of inhibitions
If you think your loved one may have Alzheimer's disease, a doctor can properly diagnose your loved one's condition using an Alzheimer's test. An Alzheimer's test typically includes a physical and neurological exam, bloodwork, mental status test, and brain imaging.
How do you Know When it's Time for Memory Care?
Memory and dementia care facilities are typically ideal for adults with dementia who cannot continue living safely at home due to the symptoms of their condition, and who could benefit from 24-hour supervision and access to health care. Memory care may also be ideal for your loved one if you want to slow the progression of their disease, or improve symptoms related to memory loss and cognitive functioning.
Here are signs that can help you determine whether it's time to start exploring dementia care facilities for your loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia.
Your loved one needs help in administering their medication or remembering to take their medication on time.
You or your relatives are experiencing difficulty with helping your loved one safely bathe, use the restroom, and perform other necessary grooming tasks.
Your loved one has a tendency to wander outdoors and get lost or place themselves in danger.
You and your relatives cannot provide caregiving services to your loved one due to other obligations associated with managing a career, family, and household.
You and your relatives cannot provide caregiving services to your loved one due to living far away.
Your loved one is no longer able to operate a vehicle and has become a safety threat to themselves and others.
Your loved one is prone to becoming easily agitated and aggressive.
Your loved one has been forgetting to eat meals or is eating lots of unhealthy foods.
Your loved one has a higher number of unexplained bruises and injuries.
Your loved one no longer has a social life or regularly interacts with others.
You feel that your safety or that of your family is compromised due to your loved one's unpredictable behavior.
Your loved one is neglecting their finances and experiencing difficulty with paying bills.
If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, it may be time to start exploring your options for nearby dementia and Alzheimer's care facilities.
What is the Cost of Memory Care?
The cost of memory care will vary from one facility to the next based on factors such as amenities and services offered, the level of care needed, and geographical location. According to AARP, dementia and memory care costs an average of $5,000 to $8,000 per month.
Alzheimer's and memory care may be costly for some. Fortunately, there are some financial assistance options are available for individuals unable to fully pay for these services out of pocket. Private insurance, employee benefits, retirement benefits, reverse mortgages, and personal savings are some options to research.
When researching your options for dementia and Alzheimer's care facilities, ask upfront about the facility's available payment and financing options. Most memory care facilities will work with you to find a feasible financial solution so your loved one can receive the level of care they need and deserve.
Is Memory Care Covered by Medicare?
Many residents in memory care homes are Medicare beneficiaries, however, Medicare does not cover many long-term care services.
Furthermore, Medicare does not generally cover the costs of assisted-living or memory care, even if you have dementia.
While Medicare does not cover such costs, Medicare Advantage may pay for some memory care or assisted living depending on the plan.
Does Medicaid Pay for Memory Care?
Almost all state Medicaid programs will cover some assisted living costs for eligible residents. In most states, care in memory care is covered by an assisted living Medicaid waiver. Some states also offer personal care assistance through their regular Medicaid program.
What Questions Should I Ask my Memory Care Facility?
The right memory care facility will give you and your relatives peace of mind in regards to the health and well-being of your loved one with dementia. The best dementia care facilities will offer a wide range of services, amenities, and activities, allowing your loved one to thrive and feel comfortable while receiving the health care they need to slow the progression of dementia and experience improvements in memory and cognitive function.
Here are questions to ask when researching your options for memory care facilities.
Is your facility accredited by a major accreditation body, and is it certified to treat and care for residents with Alzheimer's and dementia?
Are all your staff members professionally trained to care for seniors with Alzheimer's and dementia?
Does your facility experience high turnover rates with medical staff, caregivers, and other employees?
What types of activities do you offer for residents, how often do they occur, and when are they available?
Which services and amenities are provided to residents in memory care units?
Which services and amenities are included with the monthly rate, and what types of extra costs can I expect to pay?
Will my loved one receive a personalized care plan?
Will my loved one be monitored and supervised around the clock?
How often will I be notified about my loved one's health status and disease progression?
What is the staff-to-patient ratio at your facility?
Will my loved one have access to healthy foods and regular meals?
Are rooms completely private, or are they semi-private?
How does your facility handle medical emergencies?
Are there any circumstances under which my loved one would be discharged from your facility and, if so, what are they?
Will my loved one be kept safe from other residents who may be aggressive or violent?
How do I Find the Best Memory Care Facility?
FindContinuingCare.com is the premier online directory of senior housing communities that can help you or your senior loved one find memory care, and other types of senior living. We have an extensive collection of media available including photos, videos, floor plans, and more.
Click on “Find Communities” at the upper right corner of the page to browse nearby memory care homes. Look up communities for free and see if the ones you are interested in have a red button called "Request Tour or Brochure". Here you can get in touch with your communities of interest and ask them to contact you with more information, all at no cost or obligation to you.
In conclusion, memory care can be a complex topic, but we hope this information has helped prepare you to research your options. Ready to get started? Visit us at FindContinuingCare.com to find the perfect home for you.