11 Key Things to Know About Memory Care

November 1, 2022, by Kathy

If you are caring for a loved one with memory problems, you may be feeling overwhelmed and uncertain of what to do next. You are not alone. Millions of families are struggling with the same challenges every day.

Whether your loved one is living with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, there are many factors to consider if you are wondering if memory care is the right option for them. Memory Care is a specialized form of assisted living that provides around-the-clock care and support for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

The benefits of this type of care for people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia can be significant, but it’s important to ensure that this is the right fit for your loved one and your family.

In this post, I discuss the many factors to consider in assessing if Memory Care is the right choice for you or a loved one. I look at what it is, who it’s for, the benefits and cost, and how to know if it is the right next step. I provide tips on choosing the right care facility and what to expect when moving into memory care. In addition, I urge you to contact your local Alzheimer’s Association for more support!

Table of Contents

What is Memory Care?

Memory care is a specialized form of senior living that caters specifically to individuals with memory-related illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. A Memory support facility provides a secure environment where residents can safely and comfortably live, offering round-the-clock monitoring and assistance with daily tasks. It provides a safe and supportive environment for people with Alzheimer’s disease, offering the necessary help and support that individuals with memory loss need.

There are different types of memory care, including assisted living memory care, skilled nursing memory care, and standalone memory support facilities. Assisted living memory care is for people who need less help than those in skilled nursing.

The Benefits of Memory Care

The benefits of memory support communities are numerous. They provide a safe and secure place for seniors with memory loss and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. They offer socialization opportunities, activities, and programs tailored specifically to meet the needs of those living with dementia. Memory care facilities offer 24-hour supervision and assistance with daily living tasks, which can be crucial for those who are living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.

How Memory Care is Different from Assisted Living

When it comes to Assisted Living and Memory Support, it’s important to understand the key differences between them. Assisted Living offers support with daily activities such as dressing, meal preparation, and medication management for older adults who may need a little extra help.

Memory Care, on the other hand, is specifically designed for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.

These communities offer 24-hour monitoring and specialized programming to allow residents with dementia to live safely and comfortably. Caregivers in Memory Care communities should receive ongoing training in caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia. In addition, there are often extra safety measures in place such as secure outdoor spaces and monitored exits to prevent wandering.

A medical evaluation and facility assessment are required before a move into Assisted Living or Memory Care. These professionals will often specify which level of care is appropriate.

How to Know if Memory Care is Right for You or a Loved One

When a loved one begins to struggle with declining cognitive abilities, it can be difficult to navigate the various options for care. How to know if memory care is right for you or your loved one? The best way to answer this question is to consider the physical, emotional, medical, and safety needs of the individual with dementia. Here are 9 signs to look for.

1. They’re having difficulty remembering recent events, and names of people they know, or become disoriented to time or place.

2. They’re forgetting how to do familiar tasks, like making coffee, cooking, or using the microwave.

3. Mail is accumulating, and bills are going unpaid.

4. They’re getting lost in familiar places, like their neighborhood or the grocery store.

5. They’ve withdrawn from social activities and hobbies they used to enjoy.

6. They’re experiencing changes in mood or personality, and may become agitated, confused, or irritable.

7. They’re exhibiting signs of depression, anxiety, or paranoia.

8. They are losing the ability to dress or take care of other daily care tasks.

9. They are becoming incontinent.

This list is not exhaustive. Resources from the Alzheimer’s Association will help alert you to other red flags related to declining cognitive function and increased memory impairments.

Additional Considerations

Consider the living situation, finances, and family dynamics of the person with Alzheimer’s disease. It is also essential to consider the situation’s impact on the primary family member, especially as the disease progresses.

Caregivers need to be supported to follow a healthy lifestyle, with a healthy diet and enough rest. Getting time away and emotional support becomes essential. Taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s disease is exhausting; truly a labor of love. Caregivers are at a high risk of developing significant health challenges of their own.

Be aware of any early signs in the caregiver of mental health problems, excessive fatigue, high blood pressure, or other health conditions, including early signs of dementia. The toll of caregiving on any family member or friend can be significant and should never be discounted. Often, caregiving at home can become unsafe or unsustainable.

Alternatives to a Facility

It’s important to keep in mind that not everyone who has mild or moderate cognitive decline requires memory care. Some people may only need occasional assistance or support, and in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, many can live independently. There are many resources available to support you in this journey. A good starting point is The Eldercare Locator, which can direct you to services, including your Area Agency on Aging.

If the condition progresses, there are interim steps you can take. Part-time help in the home, adult day programs, overnight respite care, and the utilization of safety features in the home can postpone the need to move to Memory Care. See our article Six Simple Steps to Improve Senior Home Safety. The Alzheimer’s Association is an excellent resource for education, support groups, and other resources.

Significant in-home care and extensive safety precautions may become necessary for an individual to remain in his or her home.

Benefits of an Early Evaluation

There are many benefits to seeking a medical evaluation when there are any dementia symptoms present, especially if someone has known risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s disease or for developing dementia.

Mild cognitive impairment is not part of normal aging. Taking proactive steps to reduce manageable risk factors can make a significant difference in how a condition or disease progresses. Recent research has shown that a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. Like a heart-healthy lifestyle, this includes a healthy diet, physical exercise, quality sleep, and strong social connections.

Early signs of cognitive change should be addressed proactively! If the condition progresses, planning for the changes ahead becomes essential.

How Much Does Memory Care Cost?

The high level of supervision and specialized care services for older adults with Alzheimer’s comes at a significant price. Memory care costs may, unfortunately, impact the decision to move.

According to the 2021 NIC statistics, the average monthly rent for memory care is $6,935 in the U.S. While more expensive than assisted living, which averages about $5380 per month, it is significantly less than nursing home care, which averages $10,562.

Planning for Care

The cost of memory care can vary depending on the level of care needed and the facility’s location. In some parts of the country, especially in major cities, the cost may be significantly higher.

How do Families Pay for this Care?

Family members typically have to pay for care for people with Alzheimer’s disease out of their own pockets. Costs can sometimes be offset with Veteran Aid and Attendance benefits, Long Term Care Insurance, or funds available from a life insurance policy.

If an individual’s assets are depleted, they typically become eligible for care in a long-term care facility paid for by Medicaid. Families should seek advice from an eldercare attorney or Medicaid planning expert.

How to Select a Memory Care Facility

How to choose the right memory support facility? This can be a daunting task, but there are a few things you can do to make the process a little easier. First, it’s important to consider what is important to you and your loved one. Some things to consider include the level of care offered, the location of the facility, and the cost.

Another important factor to consider is the size of the facility. Make sure to choose a community with enough room for your loved one to feel comfortable. You should also take into account the staff-to-patient ratio; ideally, you want an option with plenty of staff members who are available 24 hours a day.

It’s important to be sure that the memory care facility you’re considering has staff who are properly trained in caring for those with memory impairment, and that they offer a variety of engaging activity programs.

5 Insider Tips – What Else to Look for When Choosing a Memory Care Community

Engaging, Inspiring Activities

1. Activities and Engagement

It is best to visit to specifically observe some activities. Some communities will permit a potential resident to attend and participate in a group activity. While this may or may not go smoothly, it is a good opportunity to get a better feel for the level of functioning of the current residents, and the ability of the staff to interact with and engage the residents.

2. Staff Interaction

When visiting, pay attention to how the staff interacts with residents. Are they caring and attentive? Do they know their residents and call them by name?

3. Design of the Community

Notice the physical layout of the community. Is it large enough to allow for freedom of movement throughout the day? And are there ‘blind’ areas where staff cannot easily observe the residents? Look for a thoughtfully designed layout.

4. Fall Alert Monitoring

Ask if the community has a fall-alert system in place. These are becoming more common and can provide for much quicker responses if a fall occurs. If there are no sensors or cameras, ask how they monitor the safety and well-being of their residents.

5. Challenging Behaviors

Ask about the Memory Care facility’s policy and training on challenging behaviors. With proper staff training, many challenging behaviors can be addressed by identifying and addressing the underlying cause. It is important to understand how these situations are handled, and under what conditions a resident may have to move out (be discharged).

Finally, be sure to visit several memory care facilities before making a decision. This will give you a chance to see what each one offers to decide which one is right for you and your loved one.

Benefits of an Early Evaluation

I have worked with too many individuals and families struggling with the challenges of Alzheimer’s and other dementias not to take a moment to address this last point. There are many benefits to seeking a medical evaluation when there are any dementia symptoms present, whether or not someone has known risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementias. There are many situations that are treatable and understanding the underlying cause of symptoms is essential. Please do not put this off!

Mild cognitive impairment is not part of normal aging. Taking proactive steps to reduce manageable risk factors can make a significant difference in how a condition or disease progresses. Recent research has shown that a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. Like a heart-healthy lifestyle, this includes a healthy diet, physical exercise, quality sleep, and strong social connections. Read our articles on Optimal Well-Being for practical, research-based tips and guidance.

Early signs of cognitive change should be addressed proactively! If the condition progresses, planning for the changes ahead becomes essential.

In Conclusion

Deciding whether Memory Care is right for a loved one can be a difficult and emotional decision. As discussed, this is a type of facility or program designed to provide specialized care for individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

The important thing to remember is that Memory Support options exist to enhance the quality of life for those living with these challenging conditions, providing needed structure, oversight, care, engagement, and safety. Care communities also provide crucial support and reprieve for family members.

Consult with a healthcare professional. Connect with your local Alzheimer’s Association for education, resources, and support. Visit your local Memory Care and Assisted Living facilities well before making a decision. Ultimately, the goal should be finding the best possible solution for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia and their loved ones.

If you have a question or would like to request a brief consultation, please use our Contact Us tab. I am here to help.

Wishing you the best – KC.

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Kathy’s mission is to use the Age Better Resources platform to share the knowledge she acquired over many years to help seniors understand how they can optimize their later years. Her hope is that the content on this site, the associated services or products available, and the experts she will share, will help you or your loved ones create a plan to live as many good days and years as possible. If immediate or more personalized support is needed, personal consultations are available.

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