What is Memory Care?
Memory care is a long-term residential care for people who have diagnosed with memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other cognitive impairments and it is for individuals who need help with areas of daily living (ADLs). Alzheimer’s disease is an "irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest task”, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50% to 80% of dementia cases. When the term memory loss is used, it's usually associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD) because AD is the most common type of loss, occurring in about 5 million Americans.
The broader term for memory loss is dementia (not a specific disease itself), which is the loss of memory from brain trauma, stroke, or a degenerative disease, as well as a loss of at least one other brain function like language. People with dementia usually have trouble solving problems, doing daily tasks, and may even have trouble controlling their emotions.
Also known as Alzheimer’s care or dementia care, memory care is often provided within a separate section of an assisted living community or Skilled nursing facility. This type of residential care may be the best option for an older adult with severe memory loss or cognitive decline who is no longer able to live independently.
Memory Care Facilities, Services, and Amenities
Memory care communities are licensed facilities staffed by professionals who are specifically trained to provide care to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. These facilities are designed to accommodate older adults with progressive cognitive disorders.
The care provided is similar to what is offered in an assisted living community – including help with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, eating, medication management, and toileting. As in assisted living communities, memory care communities provide private or semi-private units, meals, housekeeping, access to round-the-clock nurses, social activities, and transportation to doctor’s appointments and other outings.
Most memory care communities are designed to make residents feel safe, secure and oriented in their environment. Specially designed features include safety precautions to prevent wandering such as secured courtyards and doors with alarms. Many of these communities offer cognitive therapies and programs meant to keep the brain active and engaged.These facilities are usually located as a separate wing of an assisted living community called special care units (SCUs). Memory care units have 24-hour support, private and semi-private rooms, and locked and alarmed premises to assure no one wanders off. Facilities will have common areas for meals, activities, and socialization. Daily activities are planned that help resident with their memory. Some activities may include games and trivia, exercise, baking, music, therapy, pet appreciation, local field trips, reminiscing, nature programs.
Some Alzheimer's care facilities have Snoezelen Rooms (combination of Dutch words "dose" and "sniff"). These rooms created by Dutch psychologists in the 1970s are controlled environments that residents will find relaxing, safe and stress-free.
They are often designed with soothing colors, relaxing sounds, aromatherapy, and comfortable chairs and blankets. Studies show that Snoezelen has a calming effect on Alzheimer's patients.
In a recent Dallas news article, Angela Green, the co-director of an assisted living facility with an Alzheimer's unit said this about their Snoezelen Room:
"We found that the colors and the sound and the motion and the touch that they're able to experience, all of those things involve all of their senses and give them a complete enjoyment of their surroundings and something to interact with," Green said. " It's not uncommon to see one laughing or dancing when they're in the environment, and even having good memory recall to the point that they can answer questions." It is hard to believe that activities like ballroom dancing, piano concerts, arts, and crafts are included in the memory care program, but it’s true. In addition to personal care needs, there are plenty of activities and events that keep residents engaged and happy. Your loved one will not be isolated from others and may suffer fewer falls, reduced medication mistakes, increased social interaction and better wellness and nutrition. There are often changes in your loved one’s personality like yelling or hitting, that could be frightening, but a memory care program is well-equipped to handle these outbursts. The care addresses each stage of the disease and adjusts accordingly for each individual. There are also therapeutic and relaxation programs that help decrease these episodes. Memory care experts keep the channel of communication open and encourage families to ask questions about their loved one’s overall well-being. These professionals believe it’s important to share their knowledge, as more education means improved care and wellness for the elder.
Memory care professionals often suggest educational seminars, workshops and regular meetings for family members to attend and learn about Alzheimer’s and dementia. Imagine having guest speakers to teach you more about your loved one’s disease and handling your own emotions. When somebody is diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer, their safety becomes far more important than your desire for them to stay in their home. Personalized, adaptable and around-the-clock care will allow you to rest easier. You don’t have to be the sole caregiver; you will have a team of supportive, knowledgeable and educated people around you. You can enjoy your loved one as a person rather than your patient, and you can go to sleep at night knowing they are safe.
It is not only for keeping individuals safe from wandering, the communication is the most important thing for people that are mentally ill. Staff members should be trained to understand the needs of people with dementia, who can lose the ability to communicate in normal ways yet still respond to verbal cues and sensory stimulation. Good memory care engages residents and gives them space to be active, promotes their physical and emotional well-being and doesn't overly rely on medication. In early stages, people can do well in memory care communities. But eventually, they may need services within a facility. Freedom of movement is important for people with dementia, who, as younger seniors, tend to be physically active. Whether you live across the country or across town, if you're not the one primarily responsible for the care of someone with Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia, it's easy to feel helpless or be unsure how to help but memory care is the perfect option for them.