Memory care units in assisted living centers
According to the most recent statistics, the large majority of senior adults will require long-term care for the next stage of their lives. More often than not, many seniors opt for assisted living, as they can benefit from housing, healthcare, services and amenities, all in the same location. Many of these adults are highly likely to suffer from Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, dealing with cognitive decline and/or memory loss.
Recognizing the increased need for dementia care, more and more assisted living facilities have created memory care units within the same community. Residents have access to housing and general services, receiving help with ADLs, such as eating, bathing, dressing, grooming, and toileting. Moreover, they benefit from specialized care, with trained staff going at all lengths to ensure the best possible quality of life for each resident in particular.
How is memory care integrated in assisted living facilities?
Assisted living facilities have integrated memory care units, which cater to the complex needs of seniors who suffer from various forms of dementia. Within memory care units, seniors are given access to housing and healthcare. Moreover, they benefit from a wide range of services and amenities, many of them destined to keep them safe and anchored in daily life. With most cases, the top goal is to ensure a high standard of living, with focus on slowing down the cognitive decline and the associated loss of memory.
Seniors who suffer from dementia are often confused, which makes them prone to injuries. Considering such risks, it should come as no surprise that memory care units concentrate on potential safety features that can be added to protect such residents. For instance, all living units are equipped with emergency alert systems and residents are monitored round-the-clock. Safety is a major concern, so all entries have coded keypads; in this way, residents are prevented from wandering.
To reduce the risk of falls and other injuries, the layout of each memory care unit is structured with attention to detail. There are minimal elements of décor, colored lanes to help with orientation, and living units are usually located on the ground floor. Dining areas and common rooms are within easy reach as well. Residents who are agitated, with a predisposition towards aggression, benefit from calming therapies. They have access to soothing spaces, which is a huge benefit to consider.
The staff working within the memory care unit is trained to work with seniors who suffer from dementia. They have both the knowledge and practical experience to offer the necessary support, not only in terms of healthcare, but also when it comes to personal assistance. The care offered is available round-the-clock, with a person-centered approach. Seniors are helped to maintain their cognitive skills, with focus on retaining a sense of self. Efforts are made to ensure the best possible quality of life.
With compassion, the staff will help dementia residents to navigate difficult behaviors caused by their condition. At the same time, they will encourage seniors to maintain an independent lifestyle, within reasonable limits. These residents can benefit from support whenever they need it, depending on how advanced their condition is.
In terms of cost, it is worth mentioning that memory care costs more than assisted living, even when it is offered within the same community. Among the factors that influence monthly fees, there are: location, size of living unit, number of residents sharing the respective unit, services and amenities offered. Should the resident in question also benefit from limited nursing services, the respective fees are going to be even higher.
The fees paid for each dementia senior also cover the 24-hour care and supervision, as well as the numerous safety features, such as the keyed entries to prevent wandering. In addition, residents benefit from various therapies, a higher number of staff and a structured environment. Like with other residents, they too can access financial assistance programs to fund their spot in an assisted living facility. Some states even have special programs for those who have been diagnosed with dementia.
A lot of seniors who suffer from early-stage dementia decide to move into an assisted living facility first. As their condition progresses and they begin to require more assistance or supervision, they can transition to the memory care unit available within the same community. This allows for a worry-free transition from one level of care to the other, allowing seniors to remain in a familiar community. They can still see their friends and maintain their close relationship with the staff.
If you are in the process of researching ALFs that offer memory care, it might be a good idea to take virtual tours of each community. In this way, you can see how the actual unit looks like, including the layout of living units. Many ALFs offer detailed information on available services and amenities, targeted at dementia seniors.
Services offered by memory care units in assisted living centers
Dementia seniors have access to the general range of services. These can include, but are not limited to: housekeeping, meal service with dietary adjustments, laundry and linen service, scheduled transportation (to appointments & non-medical), 24/7 security, general maintenance, errand running and shopping. Additional services might be offered, with each facility having the freedom to decide on what to include.
Depending on the stage of dementia, seniors might receive more or less assistance with ADLs. While independence is encouraged, the staff is available to provide support when needed. Sometimes, residents will require help with other tasks, such as oral hygiene. Specialized care is offered, including diabetes care, wound care, and tracheostomy services. In addition, the staff is trained, as mentioned, to handle the specific needs associated with dementia and memory loss.
Medication management is one of the most important services provided within memory care units. With residents who are in the early stages of dementia, the staff can offer monitoring services while they self-administer their treatment. Sometimes, they might offer reminders or help seniors open various bottles and blisters. If necessary, registered nurses can make sure the correct dosage has been taken.
If residents are unable to handle this task, the staff will administer various treatments. In some facilities, only registered nurses are allowed to handle the administration of treatments, including insulin shots. Some ALFs might not allow for more complex treatments to be administered by on-site staff, but they will accept third-party providers that offer such services. As with other situations, the respective costs must be covered by seniors.
In advanced stages, dementia seniors require enhanced assistance and supervision. They benefit from 24-hour care and supervision, which minimizes the risk of injury and self-harm. For those who are predisposed towards aggressive and disruptive behaviors, the staff uses soothing and calming therapies. These therapies have been known to minimize confusion as well, being quite beneficial for such residents.
Regardless of the stage of dementia, residents are offered access to various therapies, meant to help them preserve their cognitive skills and memory. The purpose of therapy is to delay the decline of mental functions, but in advanced cases it might also be related to minimizing confusion and preventing self-harm. In designing their service package, ALFs will consider not only the current state of their residents, but also what the future might bring.
Some assisted living facilities have designed their own service programs for dementia residents. These are often known as reminiscence programs, and they can be of great help to those who are dealing with memory loss. Within a structured environment, which delivers both calm and security, they engage in memory-focused activities. The staff working on these programs are familiar with validation therapy and other special techniques related to dementia care.
Orientation training is another service that might be offered within memory care units. Together with the staff, seniors navigate their environment, as this can help them feel less confused. They familiarize themselves with the layout and learn how to orient themselves. To help in this direction, all common areas are clearly defined. Sometimes, the walls are color coded and enclosed spaces have outdoor gardens to ensure a feeling of relaxation. Memory boxes are sometimes added to living units, as these can help residents stay grounded in their lives.
Care coordination is often one of the services that bears great significance in memory care. Various specialists work close together to ensure residents enjoy the best possible quality of life, benefitting from services that are tailored to their needs and abilities. Care is coordinated with third-party care providers, including dentists, primary care physicians, and other specialists. ALFs coordinate the transportation to medication appointments, treatment management, and support for pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes. Moreover, they might coordinate rehabilitation services and hospice care, all to the purpose of ensuring the comfort of the resident in question.
Additional therapies might be available in some assisted living centers, meant to help dementia residents relax and feel better overall. Potential solutions might include: occupational therapy, music therapy, pet therapy, art therapy, sensory therapy, and aromatherapy. No matter the stage of dementia, such therapies have been known to reduce agitation and improve mood, with long-term effect.
Memory care amenities available in assisted living centers
Memory care units are often located on separate wings or buildings within assisted living facilities. Depending on each facility, dementia residents have access to bedroom or apartment-style units. Usually, these do not have lockable doors. In more advanced stages, residents benefit from constant monitoring. Living units have bathrooms with accessible features and emergency response systems in case of major health events. Those who are in the early stages of dementia might be given access to apartments that include a fully-functional kitchen, being regularly monitored by the staff.
When it comes to their meals, residents have access to restaurant-style dining. They can sit down and enjoy meals prepared by experienced chefs, using each meal as an opportunity to socialize. Assistance with eating is offered for those who suffer from advanced dementia. Cafes are also available on the premises, with residents having access to healthy snacks at all times.
To meet the needs of dementia residents, every aspect of a memory care unit has been thoughtfully planned and designed. From specialized lighting to aromatherapy, seniors have access to the most diverse amenities. There are enclosed courtyards where they can take guided walks, gardening areas, birdwatching spots – all of these amenities provide countless opportunities for enjoying the open outdoors. Many assisted living facilities also provide therapeutic gardening programs, as studies have confirmed these are beneficial for one's state of mind and overall mood.
Hair salons and barber shops are often located on the premises, helping residents feel comfortable with their appearance. When it comes to physical fitness, there are just as many opportunities available. With the help of the staff, residents can visit the swimming pool, fitness center, or take yoga glasses. Dancing, walking, and stretching complete the list of physical activities.
For mental stimulation, there are group activities, including board games, computer classes, and libraries. Some ALFs also organize off-site trips, adding these to the daily schedule. These trips allow residents to connect with the local community, and be reminded of previous experiences. Recreational programs allow these seniors to connect with one another, being often based on mutual interests. Group games, movie nights, theater performances, and celebrations are among the most common programs falling in this category.
Art therapy is one of the main amenities available for dementia residents. Research has confirmed that seniors who suffer from such health issues may benefit from artistic expression. Painting helps them communicate and connect with others, and it has also been proved to facilitate emotional release. The staff might also work with residents to create memory books, which will allow them to relive happy memories and stay connected with their lives.
Many communities offer music programs, as these have been known to have a positive effect on the mood of dementia residents. Upon being part of such a program, residents are less anxious and they enjoy the socialization incurred through participation. Therapeutic gardening, as mentioned, helps them engage in physical activity, with benefits for the state of mind. Virtual and immersive reality programs are available in some memory care units, as well as wireless listening packages.
Additional amenities that you might find within a memory care unit include: themed neighborhoods, relaxation and sensory room, private room for family gatherings, quiet room. Most facilities are pet-friendly, but it might be for the best to make inquiries with what regard. If the respective memory care unit accepts pets, it might also have a designated area where residents can walk their furry friends. Moreover, many ALFs organize pet interaction programs, as the presence of pets can be of huge comfort to dementia seniors.
As you can see, memory care units have the most diverse amenities available for dementia residents. These target both physical and mental health, helping seniors preserve their cognitive skills and memory for as long as it is possible. In addition, they offer them the opportunity to practice various hobbies and maybe even discover new interests. Thanks to the social interaction, they can feel less alone and anxious. It is also clear that the access to all these amenities has a positive effect on their overall mood.
Memory care for couples
Many ALFs nowadays accommodate married couples who wish to live together, including within memory care units. When spouses are separated because of healthcare issues, their health often takes a turn for the worse, with a high risk of depression and anxiety. On the other hand, it can be hard for an aging spouse to take care of his/her better half, especially when dementia-related behaviors become more and more common. In such cases, moving into a memory care unit might be just the right decision to take.
Married spouses will undergo individual evaluations before moving into such a community, with both needs and abilities being given careful consideration to. The evaluation will focus not only on dementia, but also on the presence of other chronic conditions and dietary requirements. The staff performing the assessment will take into account the senior's behavior, communication abilities, level of independence, medication treatment, need for assistance with ADLs, use of assistive devices, etc.
Often times, this assessment is conducted by a physician who is specialized in senior care, along social workers and geriatric care managers. Nurses working within the same community might take part in the assessment. Based on the results of this evaluation, spouses might be allowed to live together in memory care units. Usually, the type of accommodation is chosen according to the spouse who requires the highest level of care, as it often happens with those who suffer from dementia.
Each spouse will receive an individual service plan, which details how his/her needs are going to be met. However, often times, the needs of the couple are taken into consideration as well. All residents benefit from follow-up assessments, which are undertaken every couple of months or after major health events, such as strokes and heart attacks. Should one of the spouses require higher levels of care, it is for the best to inquire whether third-party providers are accepted. In this case, they can benefit from the needed support, without having to leave the respective community.
For couples who are thinking about moving into a memory care unit, financial eligibility is a matter of uttermost importance. As a general rule, the monthly income and assets are calculated as a whole, especially when it comes to financial assistance programs. Moreover, both spouses must meet the age requirements in order to be accepted into an assisted living facility. Additional criteria might be imposed, as many ALFs only provide limited assistance with activities of daily living, including when it comes to dementia seniors.
It is worth mentioning that if a spouse doesn't need extra care, he/she will only have to cover the cost of room and board. The other spouse will pay for the services required. When couples live together, they pay rent for one unit, but the second occupant will have to pay an additional fee. It is possible for spouses to live separately or have adjoining living units, but this must be checked before signing the contract. Each community might have different policies whereas such matters are concerned.
Couples can still enjoy a private lifestyle when moving into an apartment located in a memory care unit. They can also take the decision for one spouse to remain in assisted living, while the other makes the transition to memory care. The freedom to decide is of great comfort to seniors who are struggling with their current situation. Upon living together, couples can take part in dementia-friendly activities. Respite care is offered in some assisted living facilities, so that one spouse can enjoy respite, while the other benefits from the high level of care needed.
Memory care offers couples the opportunity to focus on the time spent together, without the burden of having to care for dementia-related issues. They can live in the same unit for as long as it is possible, with a care plan that focuses on the needs of the spouse who suffers from dementia. The other spouse can take part in the other activities organized by the respective community, enjoying the respite. According to personal preferences, they can share meals and do various things as a couple.
Assisted living facilities have developed memory care units to meet the needs of those who suffer from various forms of dementia. They offer a wide range of services, including assistance with ADLs, housekeeping, and medication management. Moreover, seniors have access to a diversity of amenities, many of them targeted at dementia residents. These memory care amenities support both physical and mental health, and they often help seniors preserve their cognitive skills and memory (for as long as it is possible).
Many ALFs accommodate couples in the memory care units, even if only one of the spouses suffers from dementia. The living units are equipped with safety features and dementia seniors receive all the support they need with ADLs, medication, and so on. Non-dementia spouses can enjoy the activities offered within the community, which is a huge advantage to consider.
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