What Should You Know About Memory Care?
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The term “memory care” is being seen more often in the media. It is an important term to understand. Memory care refers to long term care for people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease or another type of dementia or other serious memory problems. It also specifically applies to people who need assistance with at least 2 types of daily self care tasks or ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living). Examples of these are feeding, dressing, or bathing yourself.

These specialized units may be a care option for a loved one who has been at home. If they are engaging in increasingly unsafe behaviors at home, or are becoming more confused, or combative, memory care units may be an alternative level of care to consider. A loved one who needs 24 hour supervision to maintain safety and well being may be a candidate for a memory care unit.

Memory care units have risen in number in response to the increased numbers of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other forms of serious dementia. Here are the reasons memory care units are different from other assisted living programs:

  • They are specialized separate care units in assisted living programs.
  • Staffing is designed to offer additional help like nurses aides who can offer daily assistance multiple times a day to residents assisting them with self care tasks, safe mobility, and taking medication. The goal is always patient well being and safety.
  • There is additional staff in the dining room to assist residents with eating.
  • There is a strong emphasis on safety and quality of life.
  • These programs are designed with special alarm/security systems so residents cannot just walk out and leave without proper supervision.
  • There are activities on these units that are specifically focused on enhancing memory. These activities focus on helping residents with sundowners syndrome and other confusion or memory loss issues. They incorporate reminiscence type programming to enhance memory. Staff  tries to keep residents minds and bodies active through ongoing structured activities offered by trained staff.
  • Residents in memory care programs may be given special alarms so if they stand up from a wheelchair or get out of bed the alarm signals staff to check on a resident to ensure they are safe.
  • Memory care units offer special programs designed to try to slow down memory decline. This may include art or music therapy. They try to do group activities to enhance resident socialization opportunities in an environment that offers stimulation to the mind and body. Physical and Occupational Therapists may be involved in these programs.
  • The rooms are usually private or semi-private to maximize patient well being and care.
  • The cost of memory care is higher than regular assisted living units because of the enhanced special programming and the additional staffing needs of the residents.
  • This is a free site that offers information about Alzheimer memory care units in your area at aplaceformom.com/alzheimers-care
  • The cost of memory care can vary based on geographic location. It also is determined by a resident being in a private vs. semi-private room and the type and frequency of help needed. Medicare generally does not cover this type of program. There is also limited coverage in terms of Medicaid. Most of these programs are paid for by private funds. Some people may have long term care insurance that may offer some coverage. Be sure and ask about all costs related to care for your loved one in a memory care program.

 

It is a very difficult decision for a caregiver who is taking care of a loved one at home to consider  transitioning them into a long term memory care program. You need to be able to judge your ability to offer the level of supervision and support you are able to offer as realistically as you possibly can. Try to be realistic about what you can and cannot do based on the frequency and type of help that is needed. Give careful consideration to your loved one’s care needs as well as your ability to offer ongoing safety and supervision given the help and resources you have.

Written by Iris Waichler
Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW is the author of Role Reversal How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents. Role Reversal is the winner of 5 major book awards. Ms. Waichler has been a medical social worker and patient advocate for 40 years. She has done freelance writing, counseling, and workshops on patient advocacy and healthcare related issues for 17 years. Find out more at her website http://iriswaichler.wpengine.com

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19 Comments

  1. THE REST OF THE STORY THAT COUPLE IS DEAD NOW AND PROBABLY GETTING THEIR PAY DAY I DON’T WISH NO ONE TO GO TO HELL BUT THAT IS PROBABLY IS WHERE THEY ARE TODAY.

    Reply
  2. I ONCE WORKED IN ONE AND I HAD NO HELP AND IT LIKE TO KILLED AND THOSE POOR PEOPLE WOULD SOIL THEIR CLOSE AND THE OWNER WOULD JERK THE SHEETS FROM UNDER THEM WITH BED SORES AND PULL THE TOPS OFF SHE WOULD POUR ALCHOL ON THEM AND DOB IT FULL OF POWDER I WAS THE ONLY HELP THEY HAD AND I SAID IF I EVER HAD A SICK PERSON AT HOME THAT IS WHERE I WOULD TAKE CARE OF IT AND I DID YES IT WAS HARD BUT I COULD NOT BEAR TO PUT MY HUSBAND IN 1 IF THOSE PLACES. I PROBABLY WILL END UP IN 1 WHEN I CAN’T WAIT ON MY SELF BUT I REATHER BE DEAD.

    Reply
  3. Diane Sullivan, your reminiscing group with your music was way ahead of its time.

    Reply
  4. My husband has STML, I’ve been his caregiver for 12 yrs, 24/7, 365, very challengeing

    Reply
    • I TOOK CARE OF MINE FOR 14 YEAR AND DON’T REGRET 1 DAY OF IT. BUT IT WILL TAKE IT’S TOAL ON YOU AFTER AWHILE.

      Reply
    • Yes, I was diagnosed bout yr ago with Depression and Anxiety

      Reply
  5. I’ve been working in memory care for a while now and love being a compassionate caregiver. It’s nice to participate in everyday activities with them and to put smiles on their faces

    Reply
  6. And in addition it is tough for caregivers to accept the kind of care their care recipient gets in memory care. It’s not generally the kind and loving care they got at home. Many of these units are understaffed. Residents sit in wheelchairs or lie in bed with dirty wet diapers which are changed on a schedule instead of when the person soils. Be sure you go visit at random and not just when the marketer who has a degree in marketing is showing you around. What they say and what happens is not at all the same thing. I’m cynical because I’ve seen too many of these units. I never have been in one where I would voluntarily have left my mom.

    Reply
    • This is sadly the truth for the memory care units I have visited in my area. The costs increase by thousands depending on the level of care that your loved one needs and yet they still cannot guarantee that they will be assisted in eating so you still may have to do that and if they are resistant to bathing which is common they may ask you to hire additional private help to assist them. In addition they are mostly parked in front of a television with maybe csi or law and order programs which are the worst shows mentally for them. This is also why I don’t consider respite. Sad state of affairs.

      Reply
    • Merry Vasilieff I am appalled, EVEN at a nursing home level of poor staffing and lack of care, even in one that “rates” highly. They clearly make more money by hiring less staff. All these years since Mary Adelaide Mendelsohn (sp) wrote Tender Loving Greed, and have we made much progress in the most basic areas of concern? Doesn’t seem like it.

      Reply
    • Robin Rosner We haven’t made progress because it is all about profit. If I needed my person to be in a nursing home or assisted living facility I would move to get to one that was non-profit. The for profits promise the world and deliver nothing. I feel for the workers as well – they are treated like dirt and not given enough help or paid anything and can be laid off if even a single resident dies. And they are just overwhelmed with the required care. And so many of the CNA’s are from other countries and this is the first time they have ever been in a group care situaton. Culturally things are different as well. It is tough on these workers – the only winner is the company.

      Reply
    • Agree. DO drop in to any facility you may consider. Do not *schedule* a tour.

      Reply
    • Shannon Lee Looks different doesn’t it – when it is a tour vs a drop in visit. Mostly people need to drop in at night – in Texas there is no real requirement for staffing in assisted living facilities. Most have 1 person at the most. Hmmm how to get everyone out in case of fire when everyone is confused?

      Reply
  7. “It is a very difficult decision for a caregiver who is taking care of a loved one at home to consider transitioning them into a long term memory care program. You need to be able to judge your ability to offer the level of supervision and support you are able to offer as realistically as you possibly can. Try to be realistic about what you can and cannot do based on the frequency and type of help that is needed. Give careful consideration to your loved one’s care needs as well as your ability to offer ongoing safety and supervision given the help and resources you have.”

    “The cost of memory care can vary based on geographic location. It also is determined by a resident being in a private vs. semi-private room and the type and frequency of help needed. Medicare generally does not cover this type of program. There is also limited coverage in terms of Medicaid. Most of these programs are paid for by private funds. Some people may have long term care insurance that may offer some coverage. Be sure and ask about all costs related to care for your loved one in a memory care program.”

    So, access to needed care is dependent on finances, not on need for care. And we wonder why caregivers get burned out and ill themselves.

    Reply
    • exactly. I’ve been in the field and am now a caregiver whether my parents chose to acknowledge that or not (and mom can’t because she has dementia, though is blessedly still well-functioning, for the most part but needs supervision). This term “memory care” is the new euphenism (sp?) for dementia or alzheimer’s which are stigmatizing, but it all comes down to $$$$ anyhow. Lovely new facilities cropping up on every previously green piece of land left because the affluent are not spared this and there is money to be had. We need to have a lot of change in elder care and coverage for it. And lots of oversight judging by the recent pile of resumes I accumulated from people who are applying for a job as a homemaker at my agency. They reflect people who couldn’t care less. Enough said.

      Reply

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