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Concern over memory loss and dementia has grown in recent years. According to the CDC, Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia, afflicts 5.8 million Americans. This is not only unfortunate for these individuals but it also places a burden on those around them. 

When an elderly parent suffers from memory loss, their children are the ones who tend to bear the burden. The current number of unpaid caregivers stands at 15.4 million, and Proactive memory services notes that that number is expected to grow by 2025, at more than twice the rate of Alzheimer’s disease. This is where memory services come in, as they help ease the burden on adult children.

memory care resident using a puzzle for memory exercises
With increasing numbers of dementia,
memory services are becoming more popular.

Before committing to getting their parents help, adult children should understand that memory loss can vary from person to person. The Alzheimer’s Society lists the following common identifiers of memory problems:

  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Struggling to remember day-to-day events or experiences
  • Misplacing of items
  • Getting lost in familiar routes
  • Difficulty in following conversations
  • Forgetting important dates (such as their birthday)
  • Struggling with simple tasks (such as tying shoelaces)

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How to Choose a Memory Care Assisted Living Facility

When an elderly parent or relative displays signs of memory loss that seem to be getting worse, it may be time for the adult children to consider the memory services available to them and whether or not they should move their parent to a memory care facility. Memory care assisted living is provided in long term care facilities that specializes in memory services. 

Of course, memory care assisted living is not the only option.  Some nursing homes, continuing care retirement communities (CCRC), and assisted living facilities have “neighborhoods” for individuals who are in need of memory services. Hence, adult children can always ask the nursing home or the assisted living facility whether they provide memory services before committing to the facility.

When trying to find a facility, seniors and their families can start with AARP and the Alzheimer’s association’s  Community Resource Finder. As for choosing a facility for a loved one, Sarabella recommends the following tips:

elderly speaking to  a CNA in a memory care facility
Memory care assisted living facilities are a good option for seniors with Alzheimer’s
  • Consider affordability: The first thing to consider when looking for a facility is whether or not it is affordable given your financial situation. If needed, one should work with a financial planner to determine what can be done. Alternatively, one can check if their parent meets the Medicare or Medicaid requirements.
  • Consider assisted living facilities vs. nursing homes: Make sure that you know the difference. Nursing homes have certified nursing assistants as staff and can meet any additional medical needs. On the other hand, assisted living facilities help with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and perform other tasks that are recorded in their long term care EHR. However, they don’t have a nurse-on-call for medical needs. Therefore, one should consider whether the older adult will need medical attention or not.
  • Read reviews: This is an excellent way to get a feel of the experience of others within a given facility. However, avoid taking the reviews as gospel truth, but let them be a part of your process as well.
  • Tour and talk to staff: Before an elderly parent is admitted as a resident, touring the facility is a must. One can gauge how the nursing staff treats the other residents and observe whether they enjoy their work. A study reported by the National Library of Medicine to evaluate patient satisfaction found that patients were more satisfied with their care when the nurses were “concerned and caring” and not just focused on filling in data into their nursing home software.
  • Check the meal quality: If an elderly parent is going to be in a facility for a long time, one must check the meal quality. Check the portion sizes and pay a visit during mealtime to see how residents are served.
  • Keep it close to home: A memory care assisted living facility should be reasonably close to home. This enables the family to pay a visit to the elderly parents easily.
  • Consider memory care specialized facilities: if a parent has severe Alzheimer’s or dementia, then a facility that specializes only in memory care would be the best option. These facilities can provide a low-stress environment with therapy and other activities that help enhance the memory of their residents.

In addition to the tips mentioned, there are some critical questions that one must ask themselves when choosing a memory care facility. Some mentioned by aPlaceforMom include:

  • What are the loved one’s needs and priorities? First, one should consider what services a facility offers and what the elderly parent or relative may need. For example, if an elderly parent needs help with their ADLs, it is important to check how the nurses will assign and take care of the tasks using their care plan software.
  • What amenities and programs are available at the facility? Always check with the facility administration. One should carefully consider the needs and interests of their loved ones when making this decision.
  • Are nursing staff trained to care for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia? Look for facilities with an extensive history of caring for Alzheimer’s or dementia residents.
  • What safety features are provided? A memory care assisted living facility should always have in place measures that prevent their residents from wandering out of the facility. Additionally, if the elderly resident is taking medication, there should be qualified nurses to administer those medications and record them in the relevant eMAR software or long term care EHR.
  • What memory-enhancing therapies and activities are available? Therapies and treatments can help improve the quality of life for the residents and delay cognitive decline. Therefore, one should ask what therapies the facility provides as well as their benefits to the residents.
  • How are the care plans developed and evaluated? Some memory facilities offer person-centered dementia care rooted in an understanding of residents’ care history and preferences. Asking administrators in a memory care assisted living facility how care plans are developed and if they use long term care software or other care plan software can help one understand how care will be delivered, especially because dementia is often progressive.
  • What is the building layout? Unlike other long term care facilities, memory care facilities more closely resemble home. One should look for facilities with easy to navigate floor plans and environmental factors that minimize confusion

6 Benefits of a Memory Center for Seniors

A memory center is designed to provide a safe and structured environment for its residents. Some of the benefits of the memory services offered at a memory center include:

memory care facility residents looking at photobooks
A memory center allows residents to socialize
with their peers in a safe space.
  1. Socialization with others in their peer group: Residents of memory care facilities have the advantage of a structured social environment where they can interact with their peers. According to AARP, scientists believe that social interaction is key to maintaining good health and warding off dementia and Alzheimer’s.
  2. Outdoor activities: Nurses and other staff in a memory center can keep the elderly residents engaged by providing them with outdoor activities.
  3. 24-hour specialized care: If one is to compare memory care vs nursing home options, it should be said that a memory care center provides more specialized care for residents suffering from memory loss. The nurses are trained and highly skilled in caring for individuals with memory loss and dementia and provide 24-hour care to all the residents. In addition, aPlaceforMom notes that in a memory center, there is a focus on enhancing the quality of life in a secure environment to prevent wandering and confusion of residents.
  4. Memory enhancing therapies and programs: To help improve the lives of those seniors with memory loss, memory centers will provide memory services, such as art therapy, music therapy, pet therapy, and reminiscence therapy.
  5. Physical safety: A safe and secure environment is provided to seniors in a memory care facility, keeping them from harm. As Eagle Senior Living notes, memory loss that results in wandering can pose a danger to seniors. 
  6. Assistance with medication and mobility: The structured environment in a memory center ensures that residents do not forget to take their medication. Additionally, those who may have mobility issues are well cared for and helped by nurses and other staff.

The Importance of Memory Services

Memory Services provide a safe, structured environment that lowers stress for senior citizens with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The employees found in memory care facilities are specially trained to deal with issues that arise from memory loss, unlike the staff in an assisted living facility. In addition, because people with dementia are likely to wander, such facilities have alarm doors, elevators that require codes to access, and enclosed outdoor spaces to keep residents on site.

Of course, cost is always a concern. Senior Living notes that the average cost of memory care is $5,745 per month for a private room, but the cost can vary depending on the level of care needed. It is worth noting that Medicare does not cover memory care if it is provided in an assisted living or memory care-specific community. Hence, if an adult child thinks their parent may need to receive care in a memory center, they should talk to a financial planner and analyze all the available options.

For more on recent trends in long term care, you can read our blog and subscribe to the LTC Heroes podcast.

Elijah Oling Wanga