It’s hard to see someone you love suffering from a decline in memory and cognition—and it’s particularly painful when it happens to your own parents. Fortunately, memory care communities offer specialized treatment that enables seniors with dementia to experience the greatest quality of life for as long as possible.
Here, with the help of Kristen Demshock, RN, MSN, a former director of nursing, supervisor, and educator in long-term care, we explore the various types of memory care-specific programs available for seniors with dementia.
Memory Care Communities
An independent memory care community is just what it sounds like—a specialized community dedicated solely to residents at various stages of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Typically, the community is staffed with professionals who are not only educated in memory care, but who are specialists with memory care expertise, says Demshock.
“A good memory care community provides programming that stimulates the mind and focuses on the individual spirit,” she says. “It also incorporates the resident’s past experiences, pleasures, family, and friends as it supports his or her individual needs.”
Special Care Units
In a special care unit (also called a memory care unit), residents are grouped on a specific floor or wing of a larger residential care facility such as an assisted living community.
Ideally, a special care unit should provide the same support as a memory care community, with one added advantage: “Though needs differ, an aging spouse may be able to reside in the same community and visit more frequently,” says Demshock, who spent most of her nursing career working in memory care units.
Memory Care for All Stages
Though seniors at an early stage of dementia have different needs than seniors at an advanced stage, all residents can typically find care within a single memory care community.
The Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York City, for example, offers early-to-moderate and moderate-to-advanced memory care units. Units are also classified by behavior, so residents who exhibit aggressive or destructive behaviors can receive the particular support they need.
The Nexus program at Silverado memory care communities is designed to help residents in the early stages of dementia build and maintain cognitive ability. And the Clare Bridge Alzheimer’s and Dementia Program at Brookdale memory care communities offers a continuum of care, including the Crossings program for residents in the early stages of dementia, and the Solace program for those in the advanced stages of the disease.
Memory Care Services
In addition to specialized care, memory care communities as well as special care units in assisted living communities offer basic supervised care, medical monitoring, and help with activities of daily living such as dressing, mobility, and hygiene, says Demshock.
“Other services that may or may not be offered, but a family must consider depending on individual needs, are 24-hour staff supervision, emergency call systems, housekeeping and laundry service, social programs and activities, transportation, and access to and assistance in obtaining medical care.”
Since each facility offers different services—and some services will incur additional charges—it’s essential to ask questions and find out what’s available and what’s included.
And when it comes to choosing the memory care program that suits your parents best, Demshock recommends you review the mission statement of the facility to determine if it matches your parents’ values.
“Seek to learn the culture of the facility and evaluate the feeling you get from staff and other residents,” she advises. “Don’t base your decision on a tour or a single visit, and don’t assume a beautiful facility offers good care.”
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