What is dementia? The Alzheimer’s Association uses dementia as a general term for memory loss, loss of speech and language abilities, loss of problem-solving skills, and other related cognitive functions. A study commissioned by The Lancet indicates that most people diagnosed with dementia are seniors aged 65 years and older. The study found that as people age, they become more vulnerable to developing dementia.
But it is important to remember that dementia is not classified as a single disease. Rather, it covers a wide range of medical conditions, such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), Lewy body dementia, Huntington’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia that accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.
People who suffer from dementia symptoms will experience a decline in their mental health and cognitive abilities along with other symptoms including:
- Short-term memory problems
- Losing track of personal items like their purse, wallet, or keys
- Forgetting to pay the bills
- Experiencing difficulties with planning and preparing meals
- Forgetting appointments and conversations
- Abnormal travel outside of their usual places
While these symptoms can initially be misconstrued as being forgetful, over time, they will become more frequent and severe. The dementia symptoms will become more noticeable, especially with changes in their mental health, emotional responses, and behavior.
The consequences of dementia can be devastating, especially because seniors will gradually lose the ability to perform daily activities, thus losing their independence to live a normal life. They will also require round-the-clock care, which is both physically and emotionally draining for them and their family. That is why it is essential for family members to seek help and understand what services and funding are available. One big step is to create a tailored dementia care plan.
Types of Dementia Care Services
Depending on the severity of the dementia symptoms, there are several dementia care services seniors or their families can seek, such as:
- Home Care Services: Home care services are usually used during the early stages of dementia. A home care aide will visit a senior’s home to assist with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), such as bathing, meal preparation, light housekeeping, and dressing. However, one should note that home care aides are not medical professionals and can only assist with personal care and general errands.
- Adult Day Care Services: When seniors’ dementia symptoms progress, they will need more assistance. This is where adult daycare facilities come in. They provide a safe environment for seniors during the day, and they typically include transportation to and from the seniors’ home to the facility. Adult day care services provide a much-needed respite for families caring for their elderly relatives with dementia.
- Memory Care Facilities: Memory care facilities offer round-the-clock care for seniors with severe dementia symptoms. These facilities are designed with a high priority on resident safety. They include keypad locks on all entrances and exits to prevent residents from wandering, specially designed floor plans that reduce confusion, and experienced staff trained to care for residents with dementia.
Does Medicare Cover Nursing Home Care for Dementia?
When a senior is diagnosed with dementia, one of the biggest concerns they or their families have is funding. Therefore, they will naturally ask, does Medicare cover nursing home care for dementia, and what dementia care plans are available?
While Medicare provides some funding for people with dementia, it does not cover the total costs of dementia care. Therefore, to qualify for Medicare coverage, seniors must understand the different types of dementia care funding and the services they cover:
- Home Care Funding: Medicare covers part-time (35 hours per week) home care assistance. The amount of time and frequency of home care services will vary depending on the seniors and the level of aid they need. However, seniors must be certified as homebound to qualify for home care, meaning they cannot leave their homes without help. Before starting home care services, the home health agency will also inform the senior or their families of how much funding Medicare will contribute and if the senior needs to pay for additional items or services that Medicare does not cover.
- Adult Day Care Funding: Medicare does not include funding for adult day care centers. However, since 2019, all fifty states now offer assistance for adult day care programs through Medicaid for low-income seniors who have a monthly payment of $2,313 or less. Most adult day care services are covered under Medicaid waivers, which allow states to offer Medicaid services to seniors who wish to stay at home rather than move into a nursing home. While these waivers provide some assistance for adult day care, there are often enrollment caps and long waiting times. The eligibility for Medicaid waivers will consider the senior’s income, financial resources, and functional ability.
- Memory Care Facility Funding: When seniors need to move into a memory care facility, Medicare will only pay for the first one hundred days of care. It will not cover extended stays for seniors who need help with ADLs. In such cases, seniors can see what Medicaid funding is available, depending on the senior’s financial eligibility. If a senior is diagnosed as terminally ill (six months or less to live), they will qualify for Medicare’s all-inclusive hospice funding, including complete palliative care and counseling for the senior and their family.
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3 Innovative Dementia Care Training Programs
Due to the increasing demand for dementia care, it comes as no surprise that new and innovative dementia care training is being introduced. Some of the most promising dementia care models include:
1. UCLA’s Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care (ADC) Program
The ADC program is an innovative dementia care program run by dementia care specialists and nurse practitioners from the University of California, Los Angeles. The program aims to give primary caregivers a comprehensive and coordinated dementia care plan to provide better patient-centered care.
The ADC program addresses both the needs of dementia patients and those of their primary caregivers. The program educates primary caregivers on understanding the complexities behind dementia and how it impacts people living with dementia on a medical, behavioral, and social level. It also gives practical guidance to caregivers so they can provide better primary care while reducing caregiver strain and burnout due to more complex care.
UCLA’s program follows a five-step process that focuses on how to manage the disease effectively:
- Recruit and register the dementia patient
- Conduct a 90-minute, in-person needs assessment on the dementia patient and their primary caregivers
- Create a dementia care plan based on the patient’s needs assessment
- Monitor and record ongoing revisions in the dementia care plan according to the patient’s needs
- Provide around-the-clock assistance and advice with a telephone hotline where primary caregivers can connect with the UCLA health care system and local community resources to maximize patient function, independence, and dignity
The ADC model has shown positive results for both the people living with dementia and their primary caregivers. Some notable outcomes include reduced behavioral and depressive symptoms for patients, reduced depressive symptoms for caregivers, reduced admissions to nursing homes, and reduced Medicare costs.
2. The Greenhouse Project’s Best Life Memory Care Program
The Best Life Memory Care program was created by the Greenhouse Project in 2016. It offers a unique approach to dementia care by focusing on holistic care, so both caregivers and organizations can better support patients living with dementia.
The program also provides educational training for progressive-minded memory care, assisted living, and nursing home providers. It examines the negative stigma of dementia in society, which impacts the lives of the people with dementia. Therefore, it is suitable for all staff members who care for dementia patients, as it gives them a better understanding of the condition.
One of the distinguishing factors of Best Life is the focus on the patient’s accomplishments rather than their losses. This shift in focus allows the patients to thrive even after their diagnosis, giving them more enriched and rewarding lives.
The program is centered around the core values of living a meaningful life, empowering caregivers, and providing a real home. It also follows four key principles:
- Power of Normal – The program creates a culture of normalcy so the people living with dementia can live in a less restrictive environment while experiencing normal daily activities.
- The Dignity of Risk – The program highlights that people living with dementia can and have the right to live with dignity and take risks.
- Focus on Retained Abilities – The program values the importance of building genuine relationships with people, pets, and nature.
- Advocacy – Best Life advocates for expanded experiences, choices, and rehabilitation rights for dementia patients.
3. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s (AFA) Dementia Experience
This innovative program is designed to help caregivers and families understand what it is like living with dementia. Even though each dementia patient experiences different symptoms, it still offers a unique insight to educate people so they can be more empathetic and compassionate towards those with dementia.
With the advancements of modern technology, like long term care software, robotic surgery, and remote patient monitoring, it was only a matter of time before Virtual Reality (VR) experiences are used to help caregivers connect with dementia patients better.
And so the AFA’s Dementia Experience uses VR technology and an Oculus Go headset to project a three-dimensional experience so participants can enter the world of “Harry,” a fictional character diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and experience the common symptoms of dementia, like sensory disorientation and vision impairment.
While the experience only lasts for three minutes, it allows the participants to experience hallucinations, feel confusion over ADLs, have difficulty with speech and word association, and have problems with medication management. After the experience, the participants can discuss their experiences with the trainer in greater detail afterwards.
As discussed earlier, seniors and their families often wonder about dementia care, and does medicare cover nursing home care for dementia? While these programs do not fall under dementia insurance coverage, they are still worth investigating, especially if individuals want to learn more and better understand dementia.
Incorporating Innovative Dementia Programs Into a Dementia Care Plan
Whether a senior needs home care services or enters a memory care facility, it is crucial for healthcare providers to apply interdisciplinary assessments related to memory, speech, cognitive abilities, and behavior to assess a patient’s brain functions.
In addition, it is also beneficial for healthcare providers to better understand dementia, as it allows them to create more personalized dementia care plans. Therefore, healthcare facilities should incorporate innovative dementia programs into their dementia care, as it will enable them to offer patient-centered care that is better tailored to the patient and their needs.