Memory care covers the needs of aging adults with memory conditions like dementia.
According to Cathy Franz, dementia care coach at the Alzheimer’s Association’s Cleveland Area Chapter, and Kristen Morelli, director of memory care and resident life at Montefiore, both in Beachwood, memory care takes on many roles in senior living.
“In the grand scheme of senior living, memory care can take a number of forms from long-term care and assisted living units that are specifically memory care, to specialized day programs both in adult day settings and in a home environment,” Morelli said.
Franz added, “Memory care units can take many forms and exist within various types of residential care, including assisted living facilities, and they may or may not be locked or secured units. Such units most often cluster settings, in which persons with dementia are grouped on a floor or a unit within a larger residential care facility.”
Morelli said memory care programs have grown in popularity over the years.
“The reason is due to the fact that the number of people suffering from some form of memory impairment is increasing daily, and the care needs are different from those who are cognitively intact,” she explained. “There are over a hundred different diseases that can cause dementia, from Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s and Lewy body’s, and every type presents its own unique challenges for caregivers.”
Due to the growth in memory care offerings, Franz suggested thorough research.
“Some states have legislation requiring nursing homes and assisted living residences to disclose their fees and list the specialized services their memory care units provide, including trained staff, specialized activities and ability of staff to care for residents with behavioral needs,” she stated. “Ohio is not a state that requires this. Therefore, it is important to ask specific questions about what type of care is provided.”
When it is time to explore memory care, the professionals said there are a few signs to look for.
“There may come a time when the person with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia will need more care than can be provided at home,” Franz said. “Making the decision to move into a residential care facility may be very difficult, but it is not always possible to continue providing the level of care needed at home.”
Franz suggested families ask themselves about the senior’s safety, health and needs. She also said the caregiver should consider their health, productivity, ability and life outside of being a caregiver.
Morelli agreed, adding caregivers should observe regular functions.
“The first and most important (sign) is simply if an individual is not safe alone in their home anymore,” she said. “It’s important to realize that safety does not just mean they are at risk of wandering out of the home, it can also mean safety in terms of general activities of daily life, such as using appliances appropriately, financial management and personal care needs such as showering, walking and driving.”
She added a senior’s emotional needs are an important indicator as well.
“Many individuals tend to withdraw and stop engaging in social gatherings with friends and previous activities of interest when their memory issues get worse,” Morelli said. “When a person’s social involvement is limited to the time they spend in their house with caregivers, it is time to look at some of the benefits a facility can offer in terms of socialization with others.”
Overall, memory care is an important aspect of senior living.
“Memory care is an important part of senior care as persons with Alzheimer’s and other dementias often require specialized care to meet the needs specific to those with memory and thinking problems,” Franz said.
Morelli added, “Unfortunately, in this day and age, most everyone has had a loved one directly affected by memory issues or knows of someone else who has. It is a growing need and one that is not going away any time soon.”