Most people are familiar with long-term care (LTC) services for seniors who need help with day-to-day tasks. In an assisted living facility, your loved one can enjoy their independence to whatever extent they are capable and receive help with the rest. Typically, that includes meal preparation, personal care services, medication management, and transportation to and from appointments.
There is another level of care, however, that many people aren’t aware even exists. Memory care is specifically designed for seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s and, as a result, require constant care and 24-hour supervision. Memory care facilities exist within some assisted living facilities, and include those services as well as several added features that help keep patients with memory loss happy, healthy, and safe.
Memory care facilities prioritize resident safety by creating a welcoming, but secure, space for seniors with memory loss to spend their days. Wandering and confusion are common among people with dementia and Alzheimer’s, so doors to the outside are locked from the inside. Access is typically controlled by credentials, ensuring that only the right people are allowed access. Some facilities also employ motion sensors, video monitoring, and wireless pendants that allow patient tracking.
Expertly-designed memory care facilities do a great job of integrating security seamlessly into everyday life to make residents feel at home. A well-designed space may also incorporate color-coordinated hallways and artwork that serves as navigational cues, access to outdoor living spaces to encourage interaction with nature, and neighborhood wings to foster community.
When combined, these security and accessibility features improve both safety and quality of life. Many residents of memory care facilities experience reduced falls and other injuries, improved social skills, less cognitive decline, and increased independence.
Staff at any assisted living or memory care facility should be trained and equipped with the tools they need to do the job. But it isn’t just about proper training. If you have been a caregiver for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s, even temporarily, you probably already realize the emotional effort, patience, and attention it takes. You know that small changes can sometimes indicate bigger problems. You also know that, when personalities clash, life for both parties is more difficult.
That’s why the best memory care facilities incorporate consistency of care — care from the same caregivers over time — and employ staff trained to engage with patients with memory loss. These patients may sometimes become confused or combative, requiring immediate, compassionate care and (in some cases) consistent behavioral intervention. So, in addition to medical staff and people who help meet residents’ basic needs, memory care facilities staff program directors and mental health professionals who can help address these needs.
On top of the leisure programs featured in most assisted living facilities, memory care facilities may incorporate advanced programs that correspond with the progression of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Pet therapy, music therapy, and playing with baby dolls are popular examples.
The most cutting-edge facilities may even use technology to help engage residents and provide meaningful experiences while keeping them safe and secure. Virtual reality programs allow patients to participate in hobbies, like fishing or bowling, or virtually visit their favorite travel destinations, like the beach, the mountains, or the Grand Canyon.
Memory care facilities also offer programming for the resident’s family. Educational seminars and support groups help family members deal with a dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Opportunities to stay involved in their lives through family meals, holiday celebrations, and activities allow family members to maintain a connection with their loved one.
If you’re looking for long-term care for your loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s, a memory care facility may be the best choice. While these facilities typically cost more than assisted living, they also offer the features your loved one needs to stay safe, remain healthy, and maximize quality of life. Just be sure to do your research to ensure the facility you choose has the security, the staff, and the programming that meets the needs of your entire family.