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When it comes time to place an elderly parent or loved one into a senior living community, there are a few decisions that must be made first. For one, you need to determine which program works best for the prospective resident. Senior living facilities have several programs for senior citizens, including memory care and assisted living. So, how do you know which facility is best for you or your loved one?

Beth Cordi, director of sales and marketing at Rose Senior Living in Beachwood; Brandy Delp, executive director at Windsor Heights Assisted Living & Memory Care in Beachwood; and Sarah Vercauteren, community relations for Anthology of Mayfield Heights, said both of those programs are great for different purposes.

Cordi said it is important to first determine which program would most benefit the individual. The person best-suited for memory care would have forgetfulness that was more than just the normal part of aging.

“Constantly repeating themselves, being confused about the day and time, not sure necessarily where they’re at,” Cordi said. “Whereas assisted living is for someone who needs assistance with some activities of daily living. They may have some natural forgetfulness, but it’s not dementia or Alzheimer’s. It’s just more of the natural aging process ... they might forget where they put their purse or something. But that’s a normal thing that, as we get older, we misplace things sometimes. But a person in memory care might forget where they’re even at.”

One early sign of dementia, according to Cordi, is how a person takes care of their home. A lot of people with dementia forget to clean out the refrigerator and leave spoiled foods in there. The house may be in disarray. An even bigger red flag is if the person was always very neat with their house.

Delp said moving into either an assisted or memory care facility can greatly improve a person’s quality of life. It also provides a good balance of safety and independence, she said.

“You need to have that good balance to have assistance, but also that feeling of independence,” Delp said. “But, also making sure that they’re receiving their medications, 24-hour care to make sure they’re safe. Engaging in activities is a big one. A lot of times they’re lonely at home and they start isolating. Assisted living encourages them to get involved with activities.”

Vercauteren said Anthology wants individuals to be able to live their lives as independently as they’re able to, so they’re able to focus on the activities that they love most.

“A lot of our residents have either reengaged old hobbies or picked up new hobbies,” Vercauteren said. “Because they have that freedom and the availability to focus on the things that are fun to them. They’re not doing household chores or worrying about bathing, washing, laundry and chores around the house. They’re able to engage with their peers and our team members in really fun activities that stimulate all five dimensions of their personal wellness, which we define as environmental, spiritual, emotional, intellectual and social.”

In the memory care program at Rose Senior Living, Cordi said activities for the day are planned very deliberately. Activities that require a higher cognitive level are done in the morning when people are fresher. Throughout the day, as those cognitive challenges become more apparent, the activities become more focused on gross motor skills.

“So, maybe first thing in the morning, we’ll be discussing current or maybe some word games,” Cordi said. “A little bit later in the day, we might do something like art, where we’re using more fine motor skills. And then maybe after lunch we would do an exercise program where they’re using more gross motor skills because they’re getting more tired.”

Delp said she recommends families go on a tour in-person or by virtual means before making a decision. Exploring the overall atmosphere of a facility is a crucial factor in choosing a future home.

“Something that I would also tell the families to look for when they are looking at a community is if they have 24-hour nursing staff on site,” Delp said. “How many staff members are scheduled each shift, and what exactly those staff members do for their loved ones. How many meals are offered daily, what types of activities they offer. If they’re able to come into the facility, see if the residents are engaged in the activities. And if you’re able to come in, ask for a meal that’s prepared by the chef and actually try it.”

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