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Why Dementia Doesn't Necessarily Mean Memory Care

I've been hearing it more and more lately: "Mom has some dementia, so we want to find a place that has Memory Care." While this is a natural conclusion and not necessarily incorrect, I'm always trying to help people understand that dementia, memory challenges or general confusion doesn't necessarily mean your loved one will need Memory Care. Assisted Living can be an excellent long-term fit for people with memory issues - it all comes down to their needs and behaviors.

Assisted Living Can Be A Perfect Fit

Assisted living communities are designed to provide support and assistance to seniors who need help with daily tasks, but who do not require the specialized care of a memory care facility. These communities offer a range of services and amenities, including assistance with medication management, housekeeping, laundry, and meal preparation. Staff members are available 24/7 to provide support and help seniors with any needs they may have.

For seniors with confusion or memory problems, assisted living can be an excellent option because it offers a structured environment with a daily routine. This routine can help seniors feel more grounded and secure, which can reduce anxiety and confusion. Assisted living communities also offer a variety of activities and social opportunities, which can help seniors stay engaged and connected.

Assisted living communities can also provide personalized care plans that address the specific needs of each resident. For example, if a senior has difficulty remembering to take medication, staff members can help with reminders and provide assistance as needed. If a senior has trouble with mobility, the community can provide equipment and support to help them move around safely.

It's important to note that not all assisted living communities are created equal, and it's essential to do research and find one that meets the specific needs of the senior in question. When looking for an assisted living community for a senior with confusion or memory problems, it's essential to consider factors such as staff training and experience, the availability of specialized care, and the level of support provided.

So when is Memory Care necessary?

Memory care facilities are designed to provide specialized care and support to seniors with dementia or Alzheimer's disease, who require more advanced care than what is offered in assisted living.

Memory care facilities are staffed with trained professionals who specialize in caring for seniors with advanced memory problems. These professionals are equipped to handle the unique challenges of caring for seniors with memory problems, including behavioral issues, safety concerns, and communication difficulties. Memory care facilities also offer a secure environment that is designed to prevent wandering and keep seniors safe.

In general, memory care may be necessary if a senior is experiencing severe memory problems that impact their ability to follow directions, perform daily tasks, is prone to wandering or getting lost, or requires more intensive medical care.

Memory Care might be necessary if your senior:

  • Is confused to the point that they can't follow simple guidance or instructions, such as "It's lunch time, why don't you go have a seat in the dining room?" or "It's time to get ready for bed, why don't you brush your teeth?"

  • Is wandering or exit-seeking to the point that they require a locked facility for safety

  • Is completely incontinent to the point that adult undergarments and bathroom reminders aren't enough

  • Needs round-the-clock supervision or more than part-time, intermittent attention

  • Has behavioral issues, such as aggression or agitation, that are difficult to manage

Don't Limit Your Options For The Sake Of Convenience

It's also important to remember that even if a community has a Memory Care unit on campus, your senior will still have to change apartments. I try to stress this to folks because the convenience of having a memory unit on site might sound nice, but what's really more important, convenience or quality of staffing and care at that time? If you have to move your loved one, why not consider all the options available, even the ones outside of their current campus? (Same goes for nursing home or long-term care - quality of care should always outweigh the perceived convenience of having all options available in one location.) And therefore, why limit your senior living options to communities that have all care options on site? Management, staffing, and leadership are far more important, and a community that specializes in a couple lifestyle options likely has the resources to provide exceptional experiences to their residents, rather than stretching themselves thin trying to do it all.

In conclusion, seniors with confusion or memory problems do not necessarily need to move into memory care. Assisted living can be an excellent option for seniors who need help with daily tasks but who do not require specialized memory care. With a structured environment, personalized care plans, and a range of services and amenities, assisted living communities can provide the support and assistance that seniors need to live a fulfilling and comfortable life.

Ultimately, the decision to move a senior into memory care should be based on their specific needs and circumstances at that time. It's important to work with a healthcare professional or senior living advisor (like Melrose Meadows!) to determine the appropriate level of care and find a facility that can meet the senior's unique needs. They might be different than you think!

Meghan Adam is the marketing manager at Melrose Meadows Retirement Community, and loves helping people navigate the often-confusing senior living landscape. Give her a call at 319-341-7893!

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