Memory care is an art as much as it is a science. As we approach the time when we seriously consider finding a senior community to help with our loved one who is experiencing difficulties with dementia or Alzheimer's, we begin to realize that some communities have a portion of the building dedicated to memory care and there are some, fewer though, that are only memory care communities.

Approaching the Memory Care Decision

This decision happens to family caregivers over time. The elderly loved one begins to get confused. He or she experiences lapses in memory, forgets important dates or events, or even confuses what day or year it is. As the disease progresses, the elderly one may even fail to recognize the faces of people known for years or experience many other disturbing behaviors.

How Memory Care is Different than Other Options

Otherwise, though, the person seems fairly healthy, merely showing the normal effects of aging. Maybe eyesight is fading somewhat, or mobility is limited due to arthritis, but the bulk of the decline is in the memory. Doctors may be throwing around terms like "dementia" and "nursing home, and the family caregiver may or may not be prepared for that. Memory care is a newer term that can be the only focus of some communities. The elderly loved one may be intimidated by the idea of being in a care facility surrounded by aging people with different problems. Will the staff be prepared if a confusion episode, which could be dangerous or upsetting, happens? Will the staff be capable of monitoring the elderly loved one if he or she decides to wander away, or refuses to take medications due to confusion?

The elderly loved one may be intimidated by the idea of being in a care facility surrounded by aging people with different problems but often dementia has advanced to a point that something has to be done to keep the senior and the family safe. But will the staff be prepared if a confusion episode, which could be dangerous or upsetting, happens? Will the staff be capable of monitoring the elderly loved one if he or she decides to wander away, or refuses to take medications due to confusion?

There is an option in between the choices of an aged loved one living at home with memory loss (which can be dangerous and hard for the caregiver to monitor) and being in a nursing home with round-the-clock, intense physical support. One point between would be a memory-only care facility.

Memory Care Community Examples

Memory care facilities specialize in caring for those who are experiencing cognitive and memory decline. That may mean Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or other forms of cognitive impairment.

Regardless of what they offer, though, these facilities target memory loss as the main symptom of aging or age-related illness...

Obviously, each memory care facility self-defines what services they offer, given their resources, community demands, legal regulations, and other factors. However, the bulk of services such facilities offer relate to providing those who suffer from memory loss (whatever the cause) with adequate care from trained specialists in their fields. This may mean more neurologists on staff than is usually found in care facilities, more nurse training concerning how to deal with confusion, or even special diets to help boost brain function. Regardless of what they offer, though, these facilities target memory loss as the main symptom of aging or age-related illness, which means they bring expertise and experience where others may only have incidental knowledge. These facilities deal primarily with memory loss, and secondarily with other aging issues, meaning that coping with memory impairment is at the forefront of planning, staff training, and medicine.

the Village offers brain training to their residents...

For example, Belmont Village in Johns Creek, Georgia (a well-to-do suburb of Atlanta) offers a specific Alzheimer's care unit. This is a self-contained "neighborhood" where specially trained staff care for patients every day of the week, at all hours of the day. Instead of simple social events, the Village offers brain training to their residents, which can improve brain function and protect against further decline. Using this trained staff and doctor-approved programming, Belmont Village helps seniors with memory loss retain their memories and assists with confusion and other memory issues.

Another example of a memory-care only facility is Arbor Place in Rockville, Maryland. Specializing in dementia care (regardless of the cause of dementia), this facility was built upon the idea of treating those experiencing the challenges of memory loss. Arbor Place staff focus on supporting the dignity of seniors as they age in place, but this facility can also offer hospice care if necessary.

Keeping seniors with memory loss in a homelike environment, supplementing that with trained professionals who know dementia and how to care for those who experience it, means a longer, healthier life for the senior experiencing memory issues. Private bedrooms and bathrooms, plus the social experiences of living with other seniors help to keep patients' dignity and independence intact, in contrast to the over medication, restraint, or restriction sometimes used in less specialized facilities.

It is important for caregivers to research each facility before placing an elderly loved one in a facility's care. Family caregivers do well to bear in mind that what may be offered in one place may not exist in another. However, if the family caregiver or caregivers, the elderly loved one, and the elderly loved one's doctor agree that memory loss is the primary health concern, it may be time to seek out a memory-only care facility in order to tap into the expertise of those working there.

Memory loss often worsens over time, and without adequate care, a loved one may decline quite rapidly. With proper care, however, elderly loved ones, even those with memory loss, can live their declining years fully and with dignity.

More articles on Dementia/Alzheimer's

Sources

Alzheimer's Association. Residential Care. Available at http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-residential-facilities.asp. Retrieved March 31, 2016.

Arbor Place. Welcome to Arbor Place Dementia Care. ArborPl.com. Available at http://arborpl.com/. Retrieved March 31, 2016.

Belmont Village Senior Living. Alzheimer's Care. Available at http://johnscreek.belmontvillage.com/lifestyle/alzheimers-care/. Retrieved March 31, 2016.

SeniorLiving.Org. Finding the Best Memory Care Facility. Available at http://www.seniorliving.org/lifestyles/memory-care/. Retrieved March 31, 2016.

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