What is Memory Care?
Although some assisted living communities have separate memory care areas in their buildings, these are distinct care options. Memory care is specifically designed to meet the unique needs of residents living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. A memory care community (either as part of an assisted living community or stand-alone) personalizes care for each resident based on the progression of their memory loss. Staff is specially trained in caring for people living with all phases of dementia.
At Aegis Living, our nationally recognized memory care program, Life’s Neighborhood™, was created to help ease dementia symptoms and celebrate the individual’s life. Our memory care communities are designed explicitly with dedicated floors or wings to accommodate people living with memory loss. We have developed innovative care programs for residents with Alzheimer’s and memory loss to meet their unique needs, spark fond memories, and provide comfort.
What Services Do Memory Care Communities Provide?
- Medical Care. Licensed nurses to oversee health concerns and changes in behavior or memory loss.
- Care Staff. Around-the-clock care staff skillfully handle behavioral changes by personalizing their approach to each resident and making meaningful connections.
- 24-Hour Safety and Security. Memory care communities are designed and secured to keep residents safe and to prevent wandering behaviors that can sometimes occur with memory loss.
- Nutritional Programs. Chef-prepared meals and thoughtfuldietary programs increase essential nutrients, boost immunity, maintain hydration, and encourage healthy eating.
- Social Activities and Programs. Activity programs encourage socialization and engagement by meeting the cognitive level of each resident.
- Housekeeping and Laundry Services. Residents will always have freshly laundered clothing and linens available in their clean and tidy apartments.
- Transportation. If needed, staff will accompany memory care residents outside of the community for medical appointments with our available transportation.
Like the individuals themselves, memory loss is unique to each person. The benefit of moving your loved one to a memory care community is that they will be cared for by specially trained staff experienced at caring for residents with memory loss. Staff can quickly adapt to the physical and behavioral changes of a resident as their memory loss progresses. At Aegis Living, our residents’ health is continuously monitored. Since many are often unable to communicate their needs, we pay careful attention to changes, both physical and mental. Our medication managers ensure that our residents take any prescribed medication in the correct dosage and at the correct time of the day. Because each resident experiences symptoms and stages of memory loss progression differently, we cater our care plans to meet their unique needs.
24-Hour Staff Supervision
Residents with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia find great comfort in a daily routine. Our around-the-clock staff is specially trained to relieve frustration, anxiety, and even aggression with gentle redirection, creative solutions, and keeping residents in a consistent routine. Our teams can manage proper nutrition, hydration, physical activity, fresh air, companionship, and cognitive stimulation throughout the day. Our staff caters activities to complement the strengths of the individual and support them when they need more help, meeting them where they are. Our goal is to keep our memory care residents engaged all day long. We encourage them to be independent where they can and are supportive when they need us.
Safety & Security
One of the many reasons that families move their loved ones with memory loss to a memory care community is for their safety. Wandering or exit-seeking may occur with memory loss (whether at home or in a community). Families are often worried that their loved one will wander off or be unable to remember how to get back home. For this reason, most memory care communities are secured with locked doors or delayed egress and safety measures, like motion sensors, so a resident cannot leave a community without supervision. In our Aegis Living communities, we have camouflaged doorways in our memory care wings, so residents are not tempted to exit a door. It is secured for the safety of our residents and your peace of mind. We draw from over 20 years of experience caring for people with memory loss to put in place the best practices that keep residents safe, secure, and happy in their new home.
Social Activities & Programs
For seniors with memory loss it is important to create programs that are socially engaging, balanced with physical and cognitive activities. At Aegis Living, our unique Life Enrichment program is customized to our residents' physical and cognitive limitations but still imaginative, engaging, and fun. Our rotating daily selection of signature brain fitness programs encourages friendly competition, active participation, and mental calisthenics to keep minds sharp. We want residents to stay as independent as possible; therefore, a regular fitness routine can aid in strength and balance to help reduce the occurrence of falls. Our Life Enrichment teams are creative thinkers who are continually adding innovative programs to interact with our memory care residents in new ways.
Food can spark memories and bring great comfort. Besides offering nutritious food, mealtimes create a sense of community and a time for residents to interact. Dining options and the atmosphere are equally as important in memory care as it is in assisted living. Our Life’s Neighborhood™ communities include dining rooms and small kitchens for more intimate meals and one-on-one assistance by staff. Our chefs take great care in creating meals that are visually appealing and packed with color for those residents with a weaker sense of smell and taste. We offer a variety of menu items like finger foods, purees, and vitamin-packed smoothies for residents who have issues with swallowing and chewing.
Housekeeping & Laundry Services
Seniors with memory loss can become easily overwhelmed by tasks that they have done all their lives. They may become confused or lose track of what they are doing, which can lead to anxiety and frustration. Housekeeping and laundry services alleviate cleaning and tidying tasks, allowing residents to focus on interacting with others.
Most with memory loss no longer drive out of safety concerns. Residents still need to get to doctor’s appointments and have their health checked regularly. Memory care communities offer transportation and personal assistance, so they are safe and assisted outside of the community.
Benefits of Memory Care Communities
Life Enrichment Activities
In Aegis Living communities, our Life Enrichment program provides a full day of activity options for residents, to stimulate their minds, support physical health, and provide the benefits of socializing with other residents. We structure programs that encourage sharing stories and connecting with fond memories with décor that stimulates nostalgia like an old-fashioned Betty Crocker inspired kitchen or vintage airstream trailer. Programs and activities are catered to residents’ cognitive level and inclusive to keep all residents engaged and happy. We encourage self-expression through art therapy and creative pursuits. Light and music therapy helps to lessen the anxiety that can be associated with dementia. Living among friends and being cared for by skilled caregivers can significantly improve their quality of life.
Support for Families
At Aegis Living, we have over 20 years of experience caring for seniors, and many staff members have worked for our company since the start. Our staff is always available to support struggling families and willing to help anyone who is beginning their search for long-term care. In addition, our families find strength in meeting other families in similar situations. To this end, our communities may provide family support meetings, informal gatherings, and expert seminars from leading eldercare professionals to bring together and help educate families about memory loss. Offering both public and private events, we know these shared experiences can be invaluable and help to build a support network. We have online articles in our resource library, and our staff can direct your family to local resources in your community.
Safety & Security
One reason that families seek long-term memory care for their loved one is that their family member is not safe living alone. The changes that they may experience as their memory loss progresses may make it impossible for them to live safely at home, even with a family care provider. People with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia may wander or exit-seek due to their confusion. At Aegis Living, we camouflage our secured doors and delayed egress alerts staff if a resident tries to leave. Motion sensors help us to detect if a resident is up and out of their bed and may need assistance during the night. Most memory care communities, like Aegis Living, offer wearable call buttons that immediately connect a resident to staff in the case of an emergency.
Caring for a senior with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia requires a unique skill set of patience, compassion, and creativity. People living with dementia can display a host of behaviors that are not typical to their personality. Well trained and experienced staff will be able to apply techniques to calm, redirect, and defuse behaviors. Our staff builds close relationships with each resident, so they can skillfully anticipate behaviors and avoid triggers. They understand that trust, clear communication, and emotional affinity can be as effective and powerful as medication in some cases.
As your family evaluates memory care communities, it’s important that you see how staff interact with residents and how the communities retain their dedicated staff. You want to find a community that embraces close ties with their residents. Your loved one will come to rely on these staff members. You want staff who will stay around so your parent or loved one has consistent care.
Difference Between Memory Care and Assisted Living
Both assisted living and memory care are long-term senior care options. Often, an assisted living community will have a secured wing in the building or area on its campus for memory care, but these two types of care are distinct. Seniors in memory care need added services, security measures, and trained staff to handle the idiosyncrasies and behavioral symptoms of memory loss. Residents in a memory care community often require higher levels of care and oversight than those in assisted living. Because of the higher acuity, care costs can be higher depending on the services needed.
Both types of care are built on a social model. Residents are encouraged to interact with each other throughout the day. Residents with dementia may need a little more encouragement from care staff or creative solutions to find ways to interact. In memory care, activities are a balance of physical to keep residents strong and fit, with brain teasers and mental activities to exercise focus, memory, and communication skills.
Often, a resident in assisted living may develop cognitive issues and need to move to memory care. Once you have moved a loved one to an assisted living community, it can be difficult to move again. We suggest that if your loved one is in the early stages of memory loss, that you consider moving them to an assisted living community that also offers memory care. If their needs change, they do not need to move out of the community they call home and away from the care staff they have come to depend on. By staying in the same community, they can move into memory care with less disruption.
Also, a joint setting like this can benefit elderly married couples. One can live in assisted living and the other in memory care. Both can have their needs met and still see each other frequently. This has been an ideal set up for many couples in our Aegis Living communities.
Is Memory Care Right for Your Loved One?
Learning that your parent or loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia is complicated and unpredictable. Eventually, their symptoms and behaviors will change and worsen, but there is no set timeline. If your loved one has been diagnosed, it’s best to research your long-term care options early. If they can participate, bring them along on the search for a memory care community where they are comfortable. They may not need to move to a memory care community today. But more than likely, in the progression of their memory loss, they will need greater care one day.
Also, it is important to point out that even families with the best intentions may not be able to safely care for a loved one with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. Caring for a loved one with memory loss is stressful and can be detrimental to the primary caregiver’s health and quality of life. Their loved one’s behaviors can be erratic, redundant, and even violent. They can forget to take their medication, to eat, what year it is, and your name or who you are, which can be devastating. Seniors with dementia can be easily frustrated, stubborn, or paranoid, so they refuse to follow directions, change their clothes, or bathe. You might notice your loved one becoming agitated in the evenings due to sundowning or disrupted sleep patterns.
At a memory care community, they have the proper number of staff and training to handle any situation. The communities are designed to be comfortable and secure, so residents do not wander but have the freedom to move about the community. Your home may not be set up to handle all the features to make them comfortable, like lighting can help with sundowning, camouflaged doorways, security features like grab bars, and aromatherapy to decrease agitation. And the financial burden to retrofit your home may be impractical or even impossible. If your parent cannot care for themselves and you cannot provide the around-the-clock care and supervision they will need, then a memory care community can provide your loved one with a better quality of life.
Not all memory care communities are the same or offer the same services. We recommend that you determine what care services and features are most important to your family, then visit several communities. Take plenty of time to get all your questions answered. And if your loved one can take part in the selection process, you may want to bring them too. When touring the community, meet other families and the care staff who can give you useful insight into the type of care they will provide. The right community will help your loved one live a fulfilling life with the care and dignity that they deserve.
Additional Resources: Lake Union (Seattle)
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