There are many reasons why people with dementia may need to live in a memory care facility instead of remaining at home. One of the main reasons many family members cite is that it would be unsafe for them to do so. Another common reason for entering memory care is that the person stands to see significant benefits from the availability of dedicated assisted living staff.
Regardless of the reasons behind your consideration of a memory care facility for your loved one, it’s important to fully understand what all involved can expect. Then, you can use what you learn to help guide your decision regarding the best next steps for your loved one.
Memory Care Basics
Bringing someone to live in a memory care facility is often the decision we make for loved ones who are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. Memory care facilities provide an environment that is safe and secure for people experiencing cognitive decline. They also offer activities to help stimulate minds that may not be able to do so on their own. They also give caregivers peace of mind by providing supervision when it is needed the most—often around the clock.
Some people view memory care facilities as undesirable, or as an indication that you have failed as a caregiver. This could not be further from the truth. Most people who visit memory care facilities find that the environment is safe, welcoming, and refreshing, rather than depressing—often providing relief for both caregiver and resident. Memory care facilities provide an environment where residents experiencing dementia can live in safety and security without having to worry that their condition will put them in danger.
What does life inside a memory care facility look like? What should you expect? Throughout this guide, we will answer some of the most common questions about memory care facilities.
What Are the Benefits of a Memory Care Facility?
Whether you have a parent suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, a dependent family member in the later stages of dementia, or any other loved one who is experiencing memory loss or cognitive impairment, moving into a memory care facility is often the best solution to preserve their health and safety. In fact, memory care facilities offer many benefits to families and loved ones just like yours. Here are just a few benefits that have been shared by our memory care families:
- Increased quality of life surrounded by tailored support and resources
- Feelings of calm knowing their loved one will be in safer surroundings with round-the-clock nursing care
- Knowledge that their loved ones’ needs will be met by experts in the field
- Decreased stress on family members, allowing them to focus on their lives while also visiting the memory care resident when possible
- Preservation of the independence and dignity of residents
- Daily opportunities for residents to engage in meaningful activities and socialize with others
- Increased access to specialized care for dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and more
- Individualized, personal care not often found in other long-term residential care options
What is the Average Memory Care Stay Like?
The average stay in a memory care facility will depend heavily on each person and their specific needs. In fact, one of the best characteristics of quality memory care facilities is that they offer an environment that can be adjusted to meet people’s individual goals of independence, safety, security, and socialization. Inside a memory care facility, people with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other cognitive and memory issues live their lives to the fullest. With other residents and fully trained staff available, there will always be opportunities for socialization and someone who is ready to help when needed. Residents commonly have access to a variety of programs that stimulate the mind—there is always the opportunity for something new.
However, living a full life doesn’t mean memory care residents are always busy. Quality facilities ensure plenty of time for rest and relaxation, as well as family visits. Memory care facilities offer a balance of stimulation and downtime to keep residents engaged in their personal lives spend time with other staff and residents. Family and friends who know a resident at a memory care facility can always feel confident their loved ones are living in a safe, secure environment where they are not forgotten. Dedicated caregivers help with meals and activities and monitor medications, healthcare needs, hygiene, housekeeping, and other necessities to ensure overall well-being.
What Type of Memory-Enhancing Activities Are Available?
A memory-enhancing activity can be any type of activity that helps people recall notable events in their lives as well as maintaining short-term and long-term memory for daily needs. Memory-enhancing activities can promote overall well-being and reduce resident anxiety, limit cognitive decline, and help prevent falls, wandering, and other safety issues. Memory enhancement activities can take on several different forms and can provide opportunities beyond what a resident might access in the general community.
Residents of a memory care facility can opt to participate in activities such as:
- Outdoor activities like enjoying a walk outdoors in nature, smelling flowers, or looking up into the trees or sky
- Animal activities like equine therapy, pet therapy, and more
- Music therapy, including formal music therapists as well as simple activities like singalongs, music listening, or the opportunity to play a beloved instrument
- Craft activities like scrapbooking, painting, knitting, and crocheting
- Cognitive games like crossword puzzles, board games, and card games
- Video therapy, often involving home videos, nostalgic films and television shows, concerts, and historical events
- Social activities like playing bingo with friends, read-alouds, and exercise
Involvement in these everyday activities can help people with memory loss stay mentally active and improve their cognitive functioning.
What Type of Therapy Could be Expected at a Memory Care Facility?
Therapy is an important part of the program at a memory care facility. Therapists work with residents to improve their cognitive functioning as well as their social, emotional, and physical well-being.
Therapy can take many different forms in memory care facilities, including individual therapy with a therapist, group therapy sessions, and social activities like those listed above. As therapies begin, those involved will set goals for the type of work that will be done in therapy with each individual resident. These goals are determined by the specific needs and interests of the people in care and discussed by the resident, the therapist, and essential family members.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This type of therapy can help people develop new ways of coping with the world. CBT has been shown to be especially useful for memory care patients, as it helps them process information faster and improve coordination between the various regions of the brain. CBT can help address issues residents might have with memory without disrupting their ability to manage everyday tasks. It is important to recognize that the goal of CBT is not centered solely around memory improvement, but cognitive enhancement. Still by focusing on accurately recalling recent events, CBT can promote good self-esteem and an increase in self-control.
Other forms of therapy often offered in memory care facilities include art therapy, animal therapy, and music therapy. All have been shown to be beneficial for memory care patients by creating environmental stimuli that can both enhance mood and stimulate cognitive processes. Access to memory-focused therapies is a compelling factor in choosing a memory care facility, as these opportunities serve a critical role in a person’s overall health and well-being.
What Can Residents Expect for Their Daily Meals?
Many individuals experiencing dementia and memory issues demonstrate a diminished appetite and are unable to maintain a healthy diet on their own. Conversely, residents of memory care facilities have access to a diverse variety of nutritious foods. Nutrition programs at a memory care facility understand just how important it is for residents to eat nutritious food from each of the major food groups every day. A healthy diet can help reduce the chances of developing any additional illnesses related to poor nutrition, including diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
In a memory care facility, time is spent understanding the preferences of each person and ensuring a variety of options for several nutritional needs, including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free items. The connection between food and memory conditions is well understood in memory care facilities. As a result, caregivers work with patients, therapists, and medical providers to understand how food may be affecting cognitive functioning.
Meals are offered in an atmosphere specifically designed to reduce stress and confusion. For many, this means offering plenty of food choices without pressure as well as high-contrast dishes and utensils that are easy to see and use. Residents are always encouraged to eat as much of their food as they want, but it’s also important for them to be given the opportunity to enjoy a little time away from the table. For this reason, residents can get up and chat with friends and staff before returning to the table.
How Do Memory Care Facilities Compare to Assisted Living Facilities and Nursing Homes?
While memory care facilities, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes may overlap in some circumstances, they remain distinct. One major difference is how each of these facilities operate: assisted living and memory care facilities emphasize independence with an emphasis on socialization and activities for cognitive stimulation, while most nursing homes rely heavily on staff assistance for daily tasks like dressing and toileting. Assisted living and memory care facilities are not restricted in the same way as nursing homes are, allowing residents more freedom to come and go as they please. However, memory care facilities take extra precautions to monitor the safety of patients with dementia, preventing behaviors like wandering.
In addition, memory care facilities are specialized in treating residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, while assisted living facilities accommodate residents with a variety of chronic conditions. Knowing that a loved one with a memory issue will be surrounded by experts in the field with a mission to improve their quality of life is an important reassurance for families of individuals with dementia. The extra focus on ensuring residents live in a safe environment with daily activities focused on cognitive health and memory enhancement is what sets memory care facilities apart from assisted living facilities and nursing home options.
Would My Loved One Be Better Off at My Home?
If you are asking yourself this question, chances are high that your family member is no longer able to live independently at home. While it’s understandable that you want to care for your loved one by inviting them to live in your home, it’s important to consider the needs of all involved. First and foremost, your loved ones’ needs are much better met by professionals with the training required to provide the appropriate level of care, therapy, support, and nutrition.
Some families arriving at this conclusion consider hiring a professional caregiver for round-the-clock assistance. Unfortunately, the level of care required by a family member with dementia can get prohibitively expensive. In addition, continuous care will likely force you to put other responsibilities on hold or change your personal life entirely. This is why many residents and families alike choose memory care facilities where individuals can receive the best possible care from trained staff who understands their cognitive, social, physical, and emotional needs.
Family members or friends are welcome to visit memory care facilities on a frequent basis. Visiting can be a wonderful way to spend time with your loved ones and provide an opportunity for them to enjoy your company and time away from the facility.
How Can I Be Sure This is the Right Decision?
Many people are unsure of what is ahead when they learn a loved one has dementia. As with any matter of personal health, there is no single right answer. However, an assisted living facility or nursing home simply cannot provide the specialized services and dedicated memory enhancing environment offered by a memory care facility. If you are facing a decision regarding your loved one, we recommend that you take some time to consider your options and discuss each with the person in question.
A memory care facility is an excellent option for those experiencing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, requiring cognitive stimulation and assistance with daily tasks. Memory care facilities offer emotional support for families, a dedicated medical team on staff 24 hours per day, and a level of security essential to help you both remain confident in your decision
Rocky Mountain Assisted Living is proud to offer compassionate, quality memory care in Lakewood, Colorado. Our memory care facility provides a variety of research-based treatment and therapy options for individuals experiencing Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia conditions while enabling residents to maintain quality of life and independence. If you are concerned about your loved one’s quality of life at home, speak with a memory care expert about the options available.