If you have been looking into assisted living facilities for a loved one — especially if that loved one has a form of dementia — you may have heard the phrase “memory care”.
At its most basic, memory care seems like a fairly basic concept: specialized care facilities for seniors who have memory impairment. But there are some key things you should know if you are considering memory care in assisted living for someone you know.
Memory care has exploded over the last decade, and is now considered the fastest-growing part of senior housing. In this article, we’ll outline everything you need to know about memory care to help you make an informed decision for your loved one.
What is Memory Care?
Memory care is a form of permanent residential care for seniors who have health issues affecting their memory. The facilities and care plans are designed to help these individuals perform basic daily tasks in a safe and low-stress environment.
In most senior living facilities, residents have control of their free time. But those living with dementia often forget to perform basic tasks such as eating meals, showering, and getting exercise.
In memory care facilities, staff helps ensure that patients are able to perform these tasks, usually by personally escorting them through their day. That includes guiding them to activities and meals, helping them dress, bathe, and groom themselves, and ensuring they take medication as needed.
Memory care also provides extra security measures, since residents with dementia may wander and become lost thus, tend to be in a secured environment to include a secured courtyard and living quarters.
Who Can Benefit From Memory Care?
Memory care can be a good choice for seniors whose dementia affects their ability to function day to day and an in-home caregiver or family support is no longer an option.
Dementia is an all-encompassing term for a group of diseases that cause memory loss, confusion, poor judgment, and a decline in cognitive skill. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Other types include Vascular dementia, Huntington’s disease, Lewy Body dementia, and Frontotemporal dementia.
These diseases cause long-term memory issues such as forgetting names or people. But they can also cause significant problems with short-term memory. These can become frustrating or even dangerous, as people with dementia may lose the ability to bathe and groom themselves, forget to eat and drink, or ignore signs of medical issues.
Memory care facilities can be a good choice for people who suffer from any form of dementia that affects their daily life.
Assisted Living vs Memory Care
So what are the key differences between memory care versus assisted living facilities?
One of the biggest differences between memory care facilities and assisted living communities are the extra security measures on the property. Wandering and becoming lost are common problems for dementia patients, affecting as much as 60 percent of sufferers.
In assisted living communities, residents are largely free to go where they please (though this can vary from place to place). Memory care facilities have extensive security measures in place to keep staff alerted to where residents are at all times.
These security measures might include alarmed doors, locked exits, or even tracking bracelets worn by patients.
Assisted living facilities are designed with safeguards in place to help residents, but memory care facilities are on another level altogether.
These buildings are designed with many safety measures in place, particularly to guard against falls. Falling is a common hazard for people with dementia.
Similarly, some memory care facilities have spaces designed to help patients calm down and feel safe if they are feeling disoriented or agitated.
At memory care in assisted living, staff are trained explicitly for taking care of patients with memory problems. That includes knowing how to help soothe patients who are agitated or safely restrain patients who become aggressive.
Because of the higher needs of patients in memory care, there tends to be more staff. This ensures that caretakers can consistently monitor patients and keep them safe.
While both assisted living and memory care facilities are staffed by medical professionals, memory care requires caretakers with specialized training.
Most assisted living communities offer guided group activities, from art projects to excursions, exercise, and more.
Memory care facilities aim not just to keep patients safe, but provide them with as much independence and quality of life as possible. They often provide special activities that help residents orient themselves and work independently.
Many activities also help stimulate the brain and slow the effects of dementia. Medical professionals are continuing to learn about the ways that activities like music therapy can help dementia patients.
Dementia can present unique challenges when it comes to eating and nutrition. While all assisted living facilities offer three meals a day, the options in memory care are specialized.
For one thing, staff personally guide residents to meals to ensure that they are getting adequate nutrition. This often means personalized meals designed to help each patient with their own dietary needs.
Because a part of dementia care is helping patients retain dignity and independence, meals also cater to these needs. Residents are given choices for meals, served in a comfortable and peaceful environment, and have adaptive utensils as needed.
What is the Difference Between Memory Care and Dementia Care?
There is no difference between memory care and dementia care. These terms are interchangeable and you may hear both or either of them used, both in and out of a senior facility.
Is Memory Care the Same as Nursing Care?
Nursing care refers, generally, to living facilities where patients are attended by licensed nurses which may include assisted living, memory care, and nursing homes.
While dementia care facilities are also staffed by medical professionals, memory care requirements are slightly different. The staff may also include therapists and other people with professions specializing in dementia care.
Finding Memory Care in Assisted Living for Your Loved One
If you are looking for a safe and structured place to help a loved one with memory loss, you may want to learn if memory care is a good fit. Our senior advisors are on hand to help you compare your options and make the best choice for your senior’s needs.