As the number of patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia multiplies, more nursing homes and assisted living facilities advertise themselves as “memory care” facilities.
A memory care facility is a nursing home that especially caters to patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Such care usually includes 24-hour patient supervision. Some memory care facilities occupy a designated floor or wing of a larger residential facility.
In one sense, every nursing home is a memory care facility. That is because 80% of senior adults living in nursing homes have dementia, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International. The good news is that most senior adults never have Alzheimer’s or dementia—however, those who do become dependent on the assistance of loved ones or a nursing home.
A memory care facility should have special accommodations, services, and programs that are designed to meet the unique needs of dementia patients. The ideal memory care facility has a staff that is knowledgeable about Alzheimer’s and dementia and is well-trained to deal with residents in an understanding, caring manner.
All nursing home residents, including dementia patients, are entitled to respect and should be provided as much freedom and choice as is reasonable.
If you are looking for a memory care facility for your loved one, here are some features to look for and factors to remember.
Special Services and Features Memory Care Facilities May Offer
- Supervision: Round-the-clock supervision.
- Security: A secure building and secure grounds that allow residents to move about without wandering into danger.
- Ample opportunities for residents to move around, be outdoors, and walk in a comfortable but safe and secure environment.
- Staff: Does your loved one manifest aggression, hostility, anger, or other behavioral issues? Is the staff trained to respond positively and effectively to such behaviors?
- Transitions: A program to help early-stage Alzheimer’s patients transition to more intensive care as needed. (This is sometimes called a bridge program.)
- Grouping residents, housing, and dining purposes according to their cognitive level. That should be accomplished in a way that does not completely isolate dementia patients from other people and activities.
- Therapies that have been effective with dementia patients include pets, music, reminiscence therapy, light therapy, and Snoezelen room (room with multisensory stimuli).
Other Factors to Consider in Choosing a Memory Care Facility
In addition to the above, seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia require the same services as other long-term care residents, including help with personal needs, mobility, nutrition, medical treatment, etc. Here are some essential factors to consider when evaluating any nursing home:
- What ongoing medical services and treatments does your loved one require?
- What medical services does the facility provide?
- How does the facility respond to a medical emergency?
- Is a nurse on duty around the clock? If not, how often is a nurse available?
- Is the nurse staff adequate to meet all residents’ needs?
- What is the staff/patient ratio during the daytime? At night?
- What types of certifications and other training has the staff received?
- Does the staff appear to be knowledgeable and caring?
- Is your loved one able to walk independently, or does he or she require a walker or a wheelchair?
- Is the facility suitable to accommodate that need?
- Does your loved one need help eating?
- Does your loved one require help using the toilet?
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