According to American Health Association and National Center for Assisted Living, there are roughly 28,900 assisted living communities in the US today that provide almost one million licensed beds for people in need. Of this, around 14.3% have a designated dementia care unit, and 8.7% are standalone communities that exclusively serve people with memory loss.
Currently, an estimated 6.2 million older adults in the country are living with Alzheimer’s. But, despite the slowly ballooning demand for memory care, there’s still a learning gap. So, here are eight interesting things everyone must know about memory care facilities.
What is a memory care facility?
A memory care facility is the safest senior housing option for people with progressive memory loss. The sole purpose of memory care units is not to isolate people with dementia but to give them a haven and access to specialized care as their condition gets worse.
People affected with dementia will eventually change and develop combative behaviors. They become agitated, upset, and suspicious of the people around them. They also lose control of their emotional responses as dementia eats away at their cognitive functionality and identity. For a non-specialist caregiver, it’s challenging to handle all these deteriorations. However, a trained dementia caregiver can, and that’s what memory care facilities provide.
Furthermore, the tendency to wander puts people with cognitive impairment at risk of accidents and falls. In fact, six in every ten people with dementia wander at least once. Sometimes, they’ll insist they need to go to “work”, or they want to “go home”, which makes it unsafe, especially if no one is looking after them. This is when a memory care facility can help with monitoring and reducing potential risks.
What does memory care facilities offer?
Memory care facilities provide secure residential spaces and 24-hour care solutions to people with dementia. Often, memory care services include but are not limited to:
- 24-hour personalized care
- Assistance in activities of daily living
- Housekeeping services
- Meal management
- Medication management
- Supportive therapies
- Care coordination
- Social programs and activities
- Transportation services
8 Things You Need to Know About Memory Care Facilities
If a family member has dementia, learning about memory care is the best starting point to cope with the situation. So here’s a summary of everything there is to know about a memory care community.
1. Safe environment
Providing a safe environment helps curb wandering in people with memory loss. Also, it isolates any potential health risks, like accidents and falls. Memory care units are equipped with keypads, secured gates, and enclosed outdoor spaces, so even if residents wander, it’s still within a safe vicinity.
Moreover, memory care communities are spaces designed with a homelike atmosphere. It promotes a sense of familiarity and belongingness, which helps prevent restlessness and wandering episodes.
2. Specialized dementia care staff
Memory care staff undergo special dementia care training to help them understand how dementia affects both the residents and their families. That’s because dementia care doesn’t only address the physical aspect of health but also its other facets — emotional, mental, and social wellbeing.
By understanding the series of behavioral changes that residents go through over the entire period of dementia, caregivers become more effective at their tasks. They can also strategize how to handle difficult behaviors, like aggression, wandering, and paranoia, which they couldn’t otherwise do if they hadn’t received any special training.
The standards of specialized dementia care training vary per state. For example, in Connecticut, the Department of Public Health demands at least eight hours of comprehensive Alzheimer’s and dementia care training for registered care staff. Meanwhile, in Texas, the Health and Human Services regulates that staff who offer Alzheimer's and dementia care must finish four hours of specialized dementia care training before they can work. Besides this, caregivers also receive ongoing training to help understand the disease progression and the type of care to give.
3. 24/7 Care assistance
While people with mild dementia can remain at home because they’re more than capable of doing so, they’ll ultimately lose some level of self-sufficiency. As dementia reaches the moderate to severe stage, the care demands increase to the point that home is unfit to live in.
For one reason, a regular home doesn’t have the emergency and monitoring systems that memory care communities have. Apart from this, at home, nobody can stay up all night to monitor their loved ones. Memory care facilities have 24-hour on-duty care staff who provide monitoring and supportive care services around the clock. This ensures that someone is present to respond immediately in case of emergency, even in the wee hours.
4. Dementia care coordination programs
Care coordination programs improve the resident's experiences and health outcomes. If a family member has dementia, one of the challenges is navigating through the complex network of care entities, which include care providers, government organizations, and insurers.
Without any help, not only will networking with these care professionals feel overwhelming but also stressful. Stress can stall families in making critical care decisions. But the inefficiency in care systems is addressed in memory care facilities where collaborative care through coordinated programs is reinforced.
For instance, if a loved one needs a therapist, families can ask help from a care manager to find a care provider, relieving them of the stress of finding the resources on their own. With this, they can make better care decisions, which is equivalent to better care outcomes.
5. Enhance the quality of life
Unlike other care settings, memory care communities can improve an individual’s overall quality of life, specifically those with moderate to severe conditions. Residents have access to 24-hour care, are served healthy meals, and sleep in a secure environment — all of these have a positive impact on the quality of the residents’ day-to-day living.
Plus, memory care homes offer an array of supportive care services to keep whatever skills residents have for as long as possible. Communities also organize various memory-boosting games and fun activities to engage and encourage social interactions. These arranged activities aim to make residents feel they haven’t lost control over their life, despite their health condition.
6. Promote independence
Some people think that residents are stripped off of their independence in memory care facilities — but it’s the other way around. Memory care preserves ongoing independence. Residents decide about how they want their day to go.
Although there are established routines, such as meal, bathing, and sleeping times, the purpose of these is to reduce anxiety and avoid confusion. Other than the set routines, residents have the choice to participate in planned activities, like games and arts. As long as there remains some level of self-sufficiency, the care staff will be there to support their independence.
Moving to a memory care facility doesn’t equate to your loved one giving up their independence. In fact, they receive all support so they can stay independent for as long as they can.
7. Improve social skills
Another myth about memory care is that residents are isolated — this isn’t true at all. In memory care communities, residents elevate their social and communication skills.
Socialization is innate for humans. However, dementia eventually affects one’s social skills. With memory loss, debilitating self-esteem issues, and depression, social withdrawal eventually hits the person.
One key focus of memory care is to promote social skills. Thus, memory care communities plan socialization activities in groups, ranging from simple games, like puzzles, to exciting hobbies, like painting. On top of this, the small chats and interactions between caregivers and residents help maintain the communication skills and restore your loved one’s waning desire to connect with other people.
8. Memory care is affordable.
People often associate long-term care with something expensive. People should know that dementia requires long-term care, but it doesn’t mean exhausting the family’s entire savings. There are financing options available to sustain and cover a fraction of the cost. Some of them are:
- VA Aid and Attendance program
- Social equity
- Retirement savings
- Bridge loans, Reverse mortgage, personal loans
- Personal savings, property, and investments
For more information on how to pay for memory care, talk to a certified dementia advisor.
Home, Assisted Living, or Memory Care? Which is the Right One?
When it comes to making care decisions, timing is an essential aspect. Unlike other health conditions, the cognitive trajectory of dementia or Alzheimer’s is predictable
Using the Global Deterioration Scale (GDS) system developed by Dr. Barry Reisberg, families can determine whether home, assisted living, or memory care is the best option for their loved ones at a given time. The GDS system thoroughly describes the symptoms in each stage of Alzheimer’s disease. If you know what stage your loved one is in, you can decide which care setting is appropriate.
Must-Know Facts and Figures about Memory Care and Dementia
1. On average, residents stay in a memory care community for around two to three years.
Source: The Villages of Windcrest
Typically, people move to memory care homes when their Alzheimer’s or dementia reaches the severe or late stage, which could last for two and a half years.
2. The cost of memory care is about 20-30% more than assisted living communities.
Source: Assisted Living
Memory care is more comprehensive and person-focused, so it costs more than assisted living. Besides, memory care has an ideal staff-to-resident ratio — usually, one staff to five residents during waking hours — to ensure adequate care is given for every person.
3. Approximately 70% of Americans age 65 and above will require Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS)
In 2020, roughly 16.9% of Americans were seniors, and by 2050, this could grow to 22%. This implies that the increasing population share of older adults will ultimately stretch the need for long-term care, including memory care.
4. Between 2000 to 2019, the mortality rate for Alzheimer’s increased to a whopping 145%.
Source: Alzheimer's Association
During the same period, deaths caused by heart disease contracted by 7.3%, while Alzheimer’s-caused deaths rose by 145%. If this goes on, it won’t be surprising if Alzheimer’s and other dementias would become the leading cause of deaths in the US and worldwide.
By 2027, the long-term care market in the US is projected to reach a value of $751.9 billion, growing at a steady CAGR of 6.8%.
Today, memory care is considered the fastest-growing segment of senior healthcare. Driven by the prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer’s in the rising aging population, long-term care would be in significant demand in the following years.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Memory Care
Families can choose between an assisted living with dedicated memory care wings or a standalone memory care community. The key advantage of the first option is that when it’s time to transition to memory care, loved ones would need little to no adjustment to their environment.
If you’re still going around looking for the right memory care community for a loved one, here’s a quick checklist of the things you need to consider.
- Location: You may want your loved ones closer to you so you can visit them often.
- Ambience: This is the result of forgetting their meals.
- Security: Visit communities to see how secure and senior-friendly the place is.
- Type of rooms: Do you want your loved one to stay in private or shared rooms?
- Care services offered: Check if the facility has comprehensive care programs.
- Staffing ratio: Confirm the staff-to-resident ratio during waking and sleeping hours.
- Trained staff: Find a memory care community with knowledgeable and trained carers.
- Cost: Ask a dementia advisor for possible financing options to sustain memory care.
In most cases, families consider around two to four assisted living residences for senior living options. Comparing each side by side will give families a better perspective of which is the best choice.
Complete Guide to Moving to a Memory Care Community
Regardless of your health situations, relocating to a new home is both emotionally and physically draining — just imagine the amount of work it entails. For people with dementia, moving to a memory care unit is several times more exhausting.
Besides the emotional impact of the transition, stress is magnified. That’s why it’s crucial that even before the “big” day arrives, your senior loved one has understood and is aware of why they need to move to a new home.
Preparing for the Move to Memory Care
When home no longer guarantees the safety of individuals with dementia, it’s time to put the best next plan into action — and that is moving to memory care. Here are some practical tips to help you and your loved one make the transition less taxing.
1. Tell your loved one about the move
Whether your loved ones are capable of a normal conversation or not, tell them about the move. Timing is critical here. Discuss the move in advance, but not too far in advance to the point that it creates anxiousness, stress, or worry. This won’t be an easy discussion, and it can get very emotional. Still, it’s best if you involve your dear one in making important decisions about their health.
Be empathetic and compassionate. Hear them out and be considerate on things that they want to bring to your attention. The key here is to listen and stay grounded in empathy.
2. Tips on downsizing
Ideally, you should downsize a month prior to relocating. That way, you don’t rush things. With ample time, it’s also less stressful. If it’s your senior parent who’s moving, get help from other family members. It also helps if you have a plan on how to tackle the task.
Here are some tips: start with one room first before moving on to the next room. That way, the space doesn’t get too cramped due to clutter. Then create different piles of things that you can keep, toss, and give away to stay organized. You can also hire a senior move manager to make things seamless.
3. Do’s and don'ts of moving to memory care
- Plan ahead: Visit the community and check what pieces of furniture you can bring along.
- Personalize space: Help your loved one adjust to their new home by adding familiar touches to their space, like picture frames.
- Make a move when they feel the best: If their mood is best during the day, begin the move.
- Be patient and understanding: Leaving the home your loved one has known their entire life isn’t easy, so be patient and understanding if they start to feel anxious or emotional over relocating.
- Stay in touch: Visit your loved one often and talk to their care team to get updates about their conditions.
- Don’t argue: It’s easy to lose patience, especially if a senior parent rejects the move. But stay calm and never argue.
- Don’t bring unnecessary items: Apply the minimalist approach and only bring your loved one’s favorite items.
- Don’t expect them to adjust right away: It takes time to adapt and love their new home, so be understanding.
Home is where our hearts will always be. A memory care community can never replace the home that your family filled with happy memories. But for individuals with dementia, it’s their safe oasis. It’s their second home where they receive adequate care from people who they might consider strangers but feel great compassion towards them.
No matter how many times we hear about tales of relocating to memory care, the feeling of separation will always be emotional. Yet, it’s one of those hardest life decisions that people can’t skip making. Knowing that your loved one is in capable hands, it becomes easy to let go of what we’ve considered our comfort zone and move into a better and safer memory care home.
Syed has years of experience dealing with people, understanding their needs, and helping them find solutions to their problems.
As a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA), Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP), Certified Montessori Dementia Care Professional (CMDCP), Syed is committed to working closely with Senior and their family knowing what is it like for individuals facing a challenging time, at times groping in dark trying to figure what is the appropriate next step or care level for their unique situation.
Syed and Senex Memory Advisors are fully committed to working closely with families in creating a personalized, step-by-step process memory care plan at zero cost.