Many families struggle to determine the best time to transition to memory care. It’s understandable considering that dementia is a progressive condition, which means spotting the perfect time while multiple symptoms uncover may not be easy.
Still, just like how particular warning signs can forewarn a cardiac arrest, dementia or Alzheimer’s will reveal symptoms that can emphasize the presence of a progressive cognitive disorder. When these symptoms start to come out, it signals the right time to consider or consult a memory care expert.
Symptoms that Tell It’s Time for Memory Care
An individual with dementia or Alzheimer’s is expected to change physically, mentally, and behaviorally. These changes, in the form of symptoms, are what you or other family members should watch out for to pinpoint the time for memory care.
Here are the key signs that you can use as a guide.
The easiest observable change to spot on is the weakening physical condition of the person. From shedding some pounds to incontinence and urinary tract infection, the person’s physical health worsens and implies the need for more care.
1. Weight loss
In the past, a study was conducted on over 1,800 Japanese-American men for 32 years to identify what links weight loss with dementia. During the first 26 years of the research, nothing notable happened.
However, when these men reached the age of 77–88, researchers finally found the connection. Out of more than 1,800 men, precisely 112 were diagnosed with dementia. Over the remaining six years of the study period, these men were found to lose about one pound each year compared to those without dementia.
Losing weight is a common symptom of cognitive impairment. A combination of two or more factors may lead to this. Some known reasons are that the person has forgotten to eat, lost their appetite, or has swallowing problems. Whatever the case, malnutrition likely connects with dementia or Alzheimer’s. To sum it up, if you think your loved one’s weight loss is alarming, it’s going to be your first sign to consider memory care.
Most seniors care about their appearance and will go the extra mile to look physically pleasing and neat. Therefore, the next thing you need to pay attention to is if issues about hygiene start to surface.
Older adults affected with dementia or Alzheimer’s may forget to take a bath, change clothes, brush their teeth, or clip their nails. If they disregard personal hygiene and care, things will begin to take a new turn from there, and caring tasks won’t be as easy to carry out. If they stay at home, it will be too challenging to cope with their growing demand for care.
When the condition reaches the moderately severe stage, loved ones may become incontinent. Approximately 6-7 people out of 10 develop the symptom due to the brain losing control over the bladder or bowel movement.
Incontinence may also be caused by other variables, like urinary tract infection, poor diet, dehydration, or medication side effects. Even if incontinence is manageable at home, it involves implementing multiple methods, like changing the person's lifestyle, diet, routine, medication management, and more. If you can’t be fully attentive to these things, it's best if a loved one relocates to a memory care unit where they receive maximum care attention.
Besides the declining physical health, the person’s behavior will give away signs that they need to move to memory care. Family caregivers aren’t trained to handle problematic behaviors, like aggression, hallucinations, and wandering. Moreover, the individual suffering from dementia may get abusive. Thus, it’s best if they’re taken care of by trained dementia care professionals.
1. Aggression and agitation
Confusion, anger, agitation, and aggression are likely to turn into violence. Often, the recipient of these violent outbursts is the children, spouse, and primary caregiver. It can be problematic if the primary caregiver is an elder spouse because it can result in abuse. A person with dementia may bite, kick, or hit their spouse. Apart from physical violence, the carer may also experience verbal and sexual violence. It takes a well-trained dementia caregiver and a safe environment to handle all these aggressive impulses.
2. Social Withdrawal
The person who has dementia may avoid family, friends, and invitations to social activities. The most cited reason is the declining communication skills and abilities. The person with the condition may not remember the names of their friends and the right words to express their thoughts. In this case, it’s easier to withdraw rather than reach out to someone to interact. When dementia approaches the severe stage, the loved one’s conversation skills deteriorate, leading them to lose interest and confidence to engage in conversations.
It’s typical for people with a progressive cognitive disorder to get lost in familiar places. Even at the early stage of dementia, wandering can occur. They may get disoriented and confused about who they are, where they are, or what time it is. It can be dangerous, especially if the loved one gets lost in an open or unrestrained environment. What’s even more troubling is that if the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia still drives, they’re incessantly putting their safety at risk without even recognizing it.
If you are a child or a spouse who works during the day and can’t monitor your loved one’s health and safety, it’s time to move to memory care. Wandering is a strong indication that you need to think deeply about the potential dangers that can happen should you leave your loved ones alone.
4. Frequent short-term memory loss
Forgetfulness is standard for people with cognitive impairment and is one of the earlier symptoms to appear. But just because a senior parent experiences short-term memory loss, it doesn’t mean they have a cognitive disorder. You can’t diagnose dementia just with a single symptom.
Unless the person goes through a detailed assessment, you can’t completely rule out the possibility that forgetfulness may be due to aging. Take note, though, that age-related forgetfulness is more subtle than instances of temporary memory loss caused by dementia.
Forgetfulness due to aging is often attributed to inattention and happens less frequently than dementia-related ones. Serious incidences of memory loss, such as when a loved one forgets to take their meds, where they place their stuff, or the names of their friends, mean a need for memory care.
C. Living Conditions
If seniors live alone, their existing living situation will confirm if they can or cannot support themselves at home. As much as they want to age in place, if their living circumstances reveal some red flags, they need to transition.
1. A disorganized and messy home
Eventually, those with dementia won’t be able to do housekeeping tasks. It’s either they ignore their household chores or unintentionally forget about them. They may evade the unwashed pile of dishes, overflowing trash cans, or clutters on the floor.
What’s worse is if they forget to turn off kitchen appliances or unknowingly store hazardous chemicals with condiments. Seniors with dementia are vulnerable to infections. So an unclean home can be the source of other health issues. If a loved one can no longer maintain the cleanliness and organization of their home, you should know what to do.
D. Caregiver Signs
The necessity for memory care won’t only be identifiable by the changes in people troubled with dementia or Alzheimer’s. The caregiver’s health is also an essential factor to consider.
1. Caregiver burnout
Another key sign that the person needs memory care is caregiver burnout. When the caregiver begins to be consumed by exhaustion from the care responsibilities, it’s a major wake-up call of the need for specialized dementia care.
Many caregivers feel guilty about taking some days off and leave the care obligations behind. Hence, many don’t even realize that they’re one step away from caregiver burnout. The moment they know they’re suffering from it is when their health is spiraling downward. They’ve become depressed and tired to the point that they no longer see the purpose behind becoming a caregiver.
Caregiver burnout harms both the carer’s health and the person they cared for. It’s crucial that caregivers block some days off to recharge and look after their own welfare. If this isn’t possible, then placing a loved one in memory care is the best option.
The Goal of Memory Care
Memory care has one goal: to provide specialized care to people with cognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, or Parkinson’s. Although changing the environment has some downsides, memory care communities guarantee that residents continue to live healthy, active, and independent regardless of their health situations.
There isn’t any other place that can help loved ones live quality life aside from a memory care community. More essentially, the caregivers who will be responsible for your loved ones are well-trained to handle all situations in the dementia spectrum. They can provide care in the most effective way that enhances the quality of life of each resident.
Planning for Memory Care
Families must not be impulsive when deciding on memory care. Thorough planning is integral as, unlike buying material things, your chosen memory care community could be your loved one’s last home. A plan can reduce the likelihood of making a wrong decision and worsening the already difficult scenario.
Ideally, planning for memory care should be done early. This way, your aging parent or the person with dementia is still mentally capable of deciding the place they want to settle in ultimately. Having a plan is advantageous in many ways, such as:
- Families can explore many memory care communities and narrow the options to the best ones.
- Families will have ample time to visit and evaluate their selected communities based on their preferences and loved one’s needs.
- Families can assess if they have the resources to sustain the estimated cost of care for the long term or at least find other financing options.
- Above all, memory care planning lessens the risk of relocation. Relocation can be many times more stressful to both the family and the person with dementia.
How to Prepare for Memory Care?
1. Open up a discussion
Communication is key when preparing or planning for memory. Sit down with your senior loved one and talk about their future. But take note that before you open up a serious discussion, make sure they’re calm and in a good mood. Inevitably, they will need memory care, so it’s alright to talk about this subject when your loved one can still make a decision.
2. Gather information about memory care communities
Reach out to your network or to a dementia care advisor who can recommend good memory care communities to you. Navigating through various memory care living options can be confusing, overwhelming, and taxing. So connecting with people who can give unbiased advice based on their knowledge about memory care will simplify your search and save you time and energy.
List the things a senior loved one needs to bring when they move. Keep it to a minimum as their stuff might not fit into their new home. Allow them to bring sentimental items, like photo frames and other decorative things, to personalize their space. This will help them integrate quickly into their new surroundings.
4. Constantly communicate with the memory care staff
One way for the memory caregivers to provide the best care for the residents is to know their preferences, likes and dislikes, interests, habits, and personality. To achieve this, family members need to communicate with the care staff and relay these details. Following the move, families should maintain communication and develop a good relationship with the care staff.
Why Learn the Signs for Memory Care
The symptoms will be your yardstick to measure or determine the best time for memory care. The first and most recognizable sign that the person has cognitive impairment is failing physical health. So, you need to be mindful of any physical changes.
When an individual begins to lose weight or neglect their hygiene, proceed with consulting memory care experts. They can give advice on the most suitable time for specialized memory care. Additionally, the earlier you take action, the better is the outcome since you’ll have more time to think everything through. With plenty of time, you don’t have to scramble to make a decision.
For family members, the lingering feeling of guilt when placing a senior parent in memory care can be haunting. It’s the drawback of making such a difficult decision. On the flip side, knowing that they’ll receive full care attention, support, and live in a safe environment brings peace of mind.
How do doctors decide when it’s time for memory care?
A single evaluation isn't enough to determine if the individual has dementia. Physicians perform a combination of different tests to confirm the presence of any cognitive disorder. The first thing health experts review is the medical history of the person. This includes looking at the psychiatric and cognitive history, changes in behavior, and medical condition. On top of this, the person also undergoes physical, neurological, and mental cognitive status examinations. Some doctors may use brain imaging technology to see if the brain is going through changes that may suggest possible dementia.
How do you know when it’s time for memory care?
If you’re a caregiver to an aging parent with dementia, you’ll notice apparent hints that will signify that their care needs have increased. For example, if their forgetfulness happens more frequently and compromises their safety, consider that a warning sign for memory care. Other evident symptoms are wandering, aggressiveness, social withdrawal, and caregiver burnout. Also, caregivers have good intuitions, and most know by just their gut when is the appropriate time for next-level care.
What are memory care services?
Memory care services are specialized care assistance given to people with cognitive derangement. This includes housing and 24-hour monitoring and supervision support in a memory care unit. This senior living option focuses on making a positive impact on the entire health facet of the residents. Memory care also provides housekeeping service, medication management, mobility assistance, personal care, meals, and care coordination.
When should you tell a doctor about memory loss?
In many cases, it’s not the seniors but the people around them that notice something is amiss. Seniors or those with probable dementia may deny the possibility that something is wrong, or they may insist that repeated memory loss and other symptoms are because of their age. So it's up to the children to convince their loved ones to meet with a medical professional for an evaluation. During the checkup, it's crucial to open up all noticeable worrying signs to the doctor. The earlier dementia is diagnosed, the higher the chances of delaying its progress.
Senex Memory Advisors offer no cost professional advice to families on choosing the right Assisted Living and Memory Care communities. They not only assist in evaluating your parents needs, but they also provide possible solutions when parents need assisted living.
Their proprietary assessment tool is designed to reduce costs by finding the most appropriate solutions for assisted living or memory care communities for seniors. Senex Memory Advisors work with you to find the best-fit solution for aging parents.
Senex Memory Advisors offers no cost professional advice to families on choosing the right Assisted Living and Memory Care communities. Their proprietary assessment tool is designed to reduce costs by finding the most appropriate solutions. If you have questions on finding an assisted living or memory care for your loved one, click here to discuss your queries with a certified dementia advisor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org
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.