Seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia need all the help they can get, and family caregivers can make their lives much easier by selecting the best memory care facilities. These facilities provide your senior with treatment to reduce the negative effects of memory loss and help them better manage the activities of daily living. But what exactly does a memory care facility do, and why should you consider this care option for your elderly loved one?
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 10% of all American seniors over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s, and 73% of all Alzheimer’s patients in 2022 were over the age of 75. Due to the growing older adult population in the United States, it’s estimated that 12.7 million people over 65 will have Alzheimer’s by 2050. On the other hand, PRB reports that the share of older people with dementia is decreasing by up to 2.5% each year. Early-onset dementia is also relatively common in the United States, and the CDC reports that about 200,000 people under the age of 65 struggle with this issue.
The good news is that you’re not alone in this struggle. You can now take advantage of our Resource Hub to find memory care facilities that promote your senior’s well-being. This free online resource provides you with all the information you need to find and assess local care options that can ease the burden of this health care issue.
Memory care facilities: easing the burden on your family
What is a memory care facility?
Memory care is a specialized branch of medicine designed to address the needs of seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Memory care facilities are senior living and residential care communities that provide a heightened level of care to serve the unique needs of memory care patients. Staff members at memory care communities strive to improve your senior’s quality of life while protecting them from harm. Memory care facilities often provide new, innovative memory-enhancement services that can improve outcomes significantly. Heightened security policies are also common at memory care facilities, and this helps prevent memory care residents from wandering off or getting lost.
Can memory care facilities cure my senior’s dementia?
There is no known cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. According to the NHS in the United Kingdom, it is highly unlikely that a single cure for dementia will ever be discovered. This is because there are many different forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s frontotemporal dementia and Lewy body dementia.
Researchers are attempting to find better treatments for these individual diseases, and while a universal cure may be unlikely, a number of promising advances have been made over the years. For example, a drug called aducanumab was recently approved by the FDA, and this drug targets a protein in the brain that has been linked to Alzheimer’s.
Memory care facilities focus on treating dementia rather than curing it. This includes therapies and memory-enhancing activities to minimize memory loss and maximize wellness as a senior’s condition progresses. Potential treatment options include:
- Animal therapy
- Music therapy
- Plant therapy
- New medication
- Art therapy
- Dance therapy
- Multisensory therapy
- Social interaction
- Physical therapy and exercise programs
What is the difference between memory care and assisted living?
Assisted living communities allow seniors to continue living in an independent manner with help from trained professionals when needed. Facilities are designed to reduce stress and make the activities of daily living easier. For example, sections of a building may be color coded to help memory care residents keep track of where they are, reducing anxiety if they momentarily forget.
Seniors living in memory care facilities are watched over more closely than those at other types of assisted living facilities, as they typically require much more direct and consistent assistance from specially trained individuals. This includes senior care services such as medication management and memory-enhancement exercises. Memory care facilities are also distinct from nursing homes because they provide a more specialized level of care. In contrast, nursing homes provide more generalized medical care.
Why would my senior need memory care?
Older adults typically require memory care when dementia progresses to a problematic point. Family caregivers are usually the first to notice the red flags, which include long-term and short-term memory loss, confusion and agitation.
A loved one needs memory care when they reach this state because they become unable to adequately care for themselves. Seniors with dementia often forget to eat, and they may struggle with basic personal care tasks due to forgetfulness. They may also forget to take their medication, which can make existing medical conditions worse.
The sooner you start looking for local memory care communities, the better. You should begin your search before your senior suffers a major emergency—not after. As soon as you start to see the red flags, you should start considering your options for memory care facilities.
What are some signs I should seek memory care for my senior?
- Getting lost frequently
- Failing to remember to eat or drink
- Forgetting to take medication
- Untidy appearance
- Forgetting to wash regularly
- Struggling to get dressed normally
- Forgetting to turn off appliances
- Failing to take care of a pet
- Strange, unexplained bruises
- Withdrawn behavior
- Sleep issues
- Personality changes
- Mood swings
Questions to ask yourself as you consider memory care
- Is my senior starting to show heightened levels of aggression?
- Does my senior become lost on a regular basis?
- Does my senior need ongoing treatment for dementia?
- Is my senior able to feed themselves?
What services does memory care provide?
Memory care services
Staff at memory care facilities provide your senior with a range of basic services to improve their well-being. Team members can help your senior with everyday tasks, such as dressing, toileting and bathing. They can also provide your senior with regular meals each day, and they can make sure your senior actually remembers to eat and drink. Other services include housekeeping, laundry, access to nursing, and transportation to doctor’s appointments.
Safety and security
Memory care communities strive to keep your senior safe at all times. They do this by ensuring a high level of security and safety throughout their care units. Because dementia patients have a tendency to wander, doors are fitted with alarms and special keypad locks. Security cameras also track your senior’s movements, while personal security devices can help locate lost seniors.
A common misconception is that memory care facilities are unfairly restrictive. This is not true, and many facilities have a number of luxurious amenities your senior can use at any time. These might include fitness centers, courtyards, swimming pools, dining areas, lounges and game rooms. Your senior is free to explore the facility, but they cannot easily leave without the knowledge of staff members.
A wide range of memory-enhancing activities and other treatment options are possible for seniors at memory care facilities. These options may include nonpharmacological treatments, such as games, outings and pet visits. Of course, your senior may also have access to some of the most innovative and promising dementia medication during their stay at the facility. Here are some treatments that may be possible at memory care facilities:
- Board games
- Music therapy
- Pet visits
- Gardening therapy
- Art therapy
- Cooking classes
- Socialization opportunities
- Music therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Dietary supplements
- Family therapy
All these engaging activities are led by experienced staff members or volunteers who are specially trained for the unique needs of dementia patients.
Questions about memory care facilities
What are the benefits of memory care?
- A team of dedicated, qualified staff members who provide your senior with comprehensive care
- Customized activities designed to boost your senior’s cognitive abilities and sense of wellness
- Behavior management to address aggression, defensiveness and other issues related to dementia
- A safe and secure location that prevents wandering and lowers stress for your senior
What staff roles do employees play in memory care facilities?
There are a number of different workers that may be employed at a memory care facility, including:
- Certified dementia care managers (CDCMs)
- Memory care directors
- Memory care coordinators
- Memory care program facilitators
- Activities assistants
What questions should I ask memory care providers?
- Do your staff members receive specialized training to help dementia patients?
- What kind of techniques do you use at your facility?
- Do you assign the same staff members to my senior each day?
- How do you deal with physically aggressive or abusive seniors?
- Is your facility accredited and certified?
- Do you employ certified dementia care managers? (CDCMs)
- Does your team receive regular training to update their skills?
- How do you secure your care units?
- Do you have safety locks on your outdoor fences?
- Is a nurse on duty around the clock?
- What specific medical services are available?
- What is your staff-to-resident ratio during the day?
- What is your staff-to-resident ratio during the night?
- Does each resident get a customized care plan?
- How experienced are your staff members?
- What memory-enhancing activities do you offer?
Talking about memory care facilities
Broaching the topic of memory care can be difficult for family caregivers. This conversation should be handled with the entire family, and everyone – including your senior – should get a chance to express their opinion.
How to talk to family members about memory care
Many of your family members may be reluctant to choose memory care because of the costs involved. You can point out there are few other options that can truly help a senior with dementia. In addition, you can highlight the fact that funding assistance is possible for this care option.
How to approach the topic of memory care with your senior
It may be difficult to bring up the possibility of memory care with your senior—especially if their dementia has already progressed to an advanced level. When speaking to dementia patients, it’s always a good idea to follow these guidelines:
- Speak clearly
- Ask one question at a time
- Eliminate background noise
- Don’t rush
- Be respectful
Be as consistent as possible in your messaging. Your senior may feel like they’re being “shipped off” to a senior living community, and it is your responsibility to convince your senior their new living environment will be comfortable and safe.
Questions to help a senior consider memory care
- Wouldn’t you like to have your needs taken care of?
- Did you know a memory care facility can help you hold on to memories of your life and family?
- Wouldn’t nice amenities and daily social interaction make your day better?
There’s no time like the present to have “the talk”
It’s best to have these conversations sooner rather than later. If you delay for too long, your senior could have an accident or become lost. Many seniors are thankful when family members bring up this difficult subject.
Paying for memory care facilities
How much does memory care cost?
Because of the specialized nature of memory care, pricing is usually more expensive than nursing homes or assisted living. However, it is usually worth the extra money because it’s the only care option that can provide the high level of care that dementia patients need. In addition, memory care facilities provide 24/7 care for all residents. This is not true with some other senior care options.
Can I get help covering the cost of memory care facilities?
You can get help paying for medical care facilities from a number of potential sources:
- Medicare: Medicare can cover some but not all of the cost of memory care. Medicare generally covers nursing care, medication, testing, meals and hospice care. In most cases, it does not cover ADL (activities of daily living), such as dressing, bathing and toileting.
- Medicare Advantage: A Medicare Advantage plan (specifically a Special Needs Plan) can cover many of the costs not covered under normal Medicare.
- Medicaid: If your senior is classified as “low-income,” they may be eligible for Medicaid. This government program can provide much more coverage compared to Medicare, and it provides benefits for things like physician services, home health care services, transportation to medical appointments, and institutional long-term care.
- Long-term care insurance: A long-term care insurance plan (LTC) can provide coverage for senior living and memory care communities, but you need this type of insurance locked in before senior care is needed. Experts suggest signing up for long-term care insurance in your 50s or even late 40s to take advantage of LTC plan benefits later in life. Generally, it will not be possible to establish this type of coverage for a senior who already needs to enter a memory care community.
- Veteran’s benefits: If your senior is a veteran, they may be eligible for a range of benefits, including the Veteran-Directed Care program, the VA Dependent Parent Benefit, and state Veterans’ Homes.
- Aid & Attendance Benefits: Also known as A&A, this is another program intended for veterans, and it can provide funding for memory care.
- Reverse mortgages: A reverse mortgage in another way to access funds to pay for your senior’s memory care. This involves using the equity in your senior’s real estate property to obtain a loan.
- Life insurance: A life insurance plan can cover the cost of your senior’s memory care. You can sell the policy to a third party and use the proceeds to fund your senior’s care options.
- Local state programs: You can also check with your local state government to see if there are any programs that provide funding for memory care.
How can I find memory care facilities near me?
Finding memory care facilities in your neighborhood is easy: Simply check out our Resource Hub to browse detailed listings of care options near you. Identify your choices and then reach out about services, pricing and more to decide on the memory care community that’s right for your senior.
Our directory includes more than memory care facilities, too. You can find out about adult day care, meal delivery for seniors, home care agencies, and much more from our listings. It’s never too early to get started, so take advantage of this free online resource today.