Photo: Heather Cartright, senior living advisor

Aging in the Right Place: Could memory care be right for you or your loved one?

Posted on February 20, 2020 by Michael Moore Jr., Herald-Tribune Media Group
When looking at assisted living and skilled nursing facilities, it’s a good idea to check to see if they offer memory care.

Many caregivers are reluctant to move their loved ones outside of the home for care, and multiple surveys show that most people prefer to age in place. But real life is often more complicated than we imagine.

This rings especially true for dementia patients and their caregivers.

The reality of caring for someone with dementia is that there may come a point where this is unmanageable at home. In that case, it might be time to consider a memory care community.

According to senior care adviser Heather Cartright who owns My Care Finders, memory care is a distinct form of long-term care designed to meet the specific needs of a loved one who has Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other memory problems.

Like assisted living facilities, memory care communities have three different primary licenses that determine the level and type of care they can provide: standard, limited nursing services, and extended congregate care, according to Cartright. For this reason, it’s important to do your research and ask facilities ahead of time what they are licensed to do.

Memory care can also be broken down into assisted living or skilled nursing levels of care, and many facilities have a separate part of the building that is specifically designated for those with dementia or other forms of cognitive impairment. But not all assisted living or skilled nursing facilities offer memory care, so again, it’s best to check ahead of time.

While memory care is generally more expensive than your typical assisted living, according to Cartright, there is usually a higher staff-to-patient ratio that can improve safety and quality of life for residents, while helping to reduce the frequency of falls.

There’s also a greater focus on meeting the needs of those with memory problems and more security measures in place. One of the primary differences between memory care units and other forms of care is that memory care units tend to be locked and often take extra precautions to lock down items that may be harmful to residents.

But it’s not for everyone.

“Just because someone has a diagnosis of dementia does not mean they require that level of care,” said Cartright.

In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, nearly 50% of residents in assisted living and skilled nursing facilities have some form of dementia or cognitive impairment.

“There are many signs that it may be time to find a memory care community for your loved one. Some examples include experiencing forgetfulness to turn off the stove, increased confusion, agitation or aggression, beginning to wander away from home and cannot be left alone. They may also require help with all of their activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, eating, grooming, toileting, or transferring,” said Cartright.

Another critical factor to take into consideration, according to Cartright, is your health as a caregiver.

“A spouse caregiver may be sacrificing their health when trying to keep up with the demands of caring for someone with dementia. It is very common for the caregiver spouse to experience deterioration in their own health or have accidents that result in injury,” said Cartright.

If this is the case, memory care might be something to consider. Making these types of decisions can be difficult for families, which is why it’s helpful to start research early while planning and keeping an open dialogue.

“Transitioning from home to memory care is often very difficult for a loved one and can initially cause increased agitation and confusion. Eventually, they will become acclimated to their new environment, and the confusion and agitation will gradually subside. Most of the time, loved ones with dementia are unable to communicate their wants and needs effectively, and memory care staff are highly trained and are usually able to anticipate their needs better. It is important to remember that you are doing what is best for your loved one and shouldn’t feel guilty about it,” said Cartright.

Comments (1)

  • Sofia Fox

    Sofia Fox

    21 February 2020 at 15:49 | #

    Hi, thanks for sharing such interesting info. I believe it is always a good decision to refer a loved one for memory care, especially if they indicate one of the symptoms like — too much of a behavior change, confusion & disorientation, and decline in physical health and
    Thanks again and keep posting such amazing articles.


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