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According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 70% of adults over the age of 65 will need long term care services at some point in their lives. Typically, these seniors will be housed in a long-term care facility. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that as much as half of all seniors in long-term care homes suffer from some form of memory condition or cognitive impairment. With such large percentages of the population in need of specialized senior care, memory care communities have become safe havens. If you or your loved one have started showing signs of a memory condition, it is never too early to start looking into your options. We have put together an in-depth guide to help you understand the importance of memory care and how to choose a quality facility.

What is Included in Memory Care?

A memory care community is a residential facility that has been created with the needs of patients with memory conditions in mind. They offer residents a higher quality of life than they would get on their own while also providing 24-hour support and higher levels of security. In addition to higher security and support from caring staff members, many memory care homes also offer specialized care.

There are programs that help senior residents to manage their healthcare needs such as taking their medications or doctors’ visits. Social programs are a big part of every memory care home’s philosophy and care profile. They offer hobbies to help keep residents' minds and bodies engaged as well as social activities to keep them connected with their surroundings. Some memory care homes may offer alternative therapies, pet visitations, gardening, or even music classes.

Help with ADLs such as dressing, bathing, and eating are always included in memory care packages. Meal preparation and snacks are also included. Every care center will have a housekeeping service and a laundry service for their residents. Make sure to inquire if these costs are included or charged separately. Staff or nurse check-ins are provided 24 hours a day and all residents are encouraged to participate in physical activity classes.

The services provided are similar to that offered in an assisted living home, however, they are customized with memory conditions in mind. The layout of the building will make initiative navigation simple while also keeping residents from wandering. Security is also included in memory care, specifically elopement prevention. Many memory care homes use medical alert systems such as personal security bracelets as a standard part of care, but not all.

Moving to a Memory Care Facility from Your Home

The choice to transition from home into a memory care facility is one made after careful consideration. When living with or caring for a senior with a memory condition, a point will come when living at home is no longer safe. Moving to a memory care center will give them the support they need to live life well while also getting much-needed treatment for their condition. There are some things to consider ahead of the move, however:

Type of care. The type of care needed should match the services offered at the memory care home. If wandering is a concern, look for a facility that offers secure exteriors and solutions to help keep seniors safe during a wandering episode. The location of the home is also important. A memory care center should be located close enough that family and friends can visit on a regular basis. If the senior has other health concerns, choosing a memory care home near a local medical center is also worth considering. Cost is not the only factor to consider when choosing a facility, but it is important to pay attention to affordability.

Staff. Staff at the memory care facility will work will families to create a customized care plan to meet the resident’s needs. This will include a detailed meal plan, a schedule of daily activities, and even a healthcare plan. Most memory care homes also assist residents with activities of daily living which will further boost their quality of life. Before moving, it is a good idea to make a list of what items to take and what items to leave behind.

Medical needs. Medical needs items such as paperwork, medications, and any medical instruments should be at the top of the list. Daily living items such as seasonal clothing, favorite bedding, and toiletries should also be on the list. Keepsakes and other mementos can also be added to the list to help the senior feel more at home at the memory care center. If they have a hobby or want to start a hobby, consider adding the supplies needed to the list of things to take as well.

Moving From Assisted Living to Memory Care When Needs Change

If your loved one is already in an assisted living community, there may come a time when transitioning to memory care becomes needed. The actual time for change will vary depending on the needs of the senior, however, in most cases, it will be a collaborative effort. Most assisted living homes will have a care plan in place that involves family support. This will prevent sudden surprises when managing a loved one with memory care needs. There are some signs that caregivers in an assisted living facility will look out for. These will indicate that it is either time to think about memory care or time to move forward with the transition.

When a patient starts showing typical behaviors that are specific to dementia, Alzheimer’s, or cognitively impaired seniors, it is a good time to consider other options. If these behaviors become a risk to the seniors or those around them, moving to a memory care facility should become a priority. Some other signs that it is time for memory care are increasing aggression, lack of attention to hygiene, constant elopement or wandering, regression from regular activities, and trouble socializing among others.

Trained staff in assisted living homes will often notice these signs well in advance of the family. Transitioning to a memory care home from an assisted living facility is often much easier than transferring from home. Some supportive measures in place help make the move from one facility to the other less traumatic. It is important to ensure that the senior actually needs a secure environment before making the transition as it is a big change. In most states, a health evaluation and a cognitive test are required before a senior can be moved from assisted living into a memory care environment.

Memory Care for Diabetics

There are many seniors entering memory care who have additional health problems to consider. While most can be managed through additional care, seniors with diabetes may need additional assistance. There is a link between diabetes and memory conditions. In fact, seniors who have diabetes are more likely to develop a cognitive condition than those without. Diabetes has also been linked to a quicker decline in the mental faculties of those suffering from memory conditions.

Memory care homes offer comprehensive care for seniors with cognitive conditions, but they are also able to help manage other existing conditions. The goal of long-term memory care is to help the resident to remain as independent as possible, for as long as possible. One way memory care facilities will support this effort is by ensuring the resident is actively participating in managing their own diabetes. This will range from actions as simple as reminding the resident to take their medication to ensuring their injections if needed, are administered on time.

Medications will be provided in clearly labeled containers or maintained with the resident's other medications. Physical activity and properly structured meals will be another focus for memory care residents with diabetes. Regular glucose monitoring by nurses on hand or through guidance by the staff will also be a regular part of resident care. As a resident's condition progresses, CGM (continuous glucose monitoring) devices may be a viable option. If your loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to ensure that the memory care facility you choose is equipped to support seniors with the condition.

Paying for Memory Care - What Are Your Options?

Memory care centers are both similar to and different from assisted living facilities. While both types of care centers offer seniors a place to live out their golden years, there are some critical differences. Memory care homes are staffed by specially trained caregivers who understand the specific needs of cognitively impaired residents. The environment is also much more secure than an assisted living home and there are special safety measures in place to protect residents. As a result, the cost of living in a memory care home is often higher than in other types of senior living facilities.

Dementia care facilities, Alzheimer’s care, and memory care homes tend to have a price tag that is 25% higher than that of traditional assisted living care communities. On average, that means seniors will need to pay at least $5,000 a month for their care. Depending on the location, extra amenities, and extra healthcare cost, this rate can be higher or lower. Paying for care out of pocket is an option, but not one that most families are able to afford. Thankfully, there are many options available to help families pay for essential memory care for their loved ones.

Reverse mortgages or an HECM is an option to cover memory care costs for seniors over the age of 62 who own their own homes. The value of the home can be used to pay for the cost of memory care without the need of selling the property outright. For seniors who have life insurance policies, some companies allow for cash settlements instead of actually using the policy to pay benefits at the end of life. This is an option for seniors who have fewer alternatives to pay for memory care.

Medicare and Medicaid don’t cover the cost of residential memory care, but some services provided by memory care facilities may be covered. Medicare will cover up to 35 hours a week of in-home care for those with cognitive conditions. That means the assistance that staff provides in a residential care home could be covered even though the cost of the room is not. Consider applying for a Medigap plan which will further supplement memory care costs. Many states also offer waiver programs through Medicaid which will help cover the cost of long-term memory care. These are usually available to prevent the need of moving to a skilled nursing home which is more costly for the Medicaid program. Care is covered under these plans, simply not room and board.

For veterans, the Aid & Attendance benefit is a monthly dividend that can help cover the cost of long-term memory care. The best thing about this option is that the payments are tax-free and provided on top of VA pension benefits. This can be paired with regular insurance and Medicaid/Medicare in many situations.

Quality of Life in a Memory Care Community

The decision to move a loved one to a memory care community is never easy, but it is often the best choice. Knowing that they will have a better quality of life and dedicated care is often the push many families need to help finalizes their care decisions. Memory care communities and long-term care facilities are created with empowerment in mind. They offer residents a way to remain independent as long as possible while also empowering them through productivity. Memory care facilities also offer a diverse range of programs tailored to the needs of those living with cognitive conditions.

Memory care homes provide life-enriching activities for seniors that help them to remain productive and mentally present. There is typically a focus on what they can do as opposed to what they can’t do. For seniors with memory conditions, memory loss, or trouble communicating, being productive can greatly improve their quality of life.

Meal times are also specially designed to ensure their nutritional needs are met. Many seniors with memory care conditions struggle with eating on time or remembering to eat at all. Meals are rich in healthy calories and full of nutrients that support brain health. Staff is also on hand to help seniors eat if needed, or to lend a hand to prevent choking. When a person is well-fed and able to dine in a social environment, their quality of life will naturally see an overall improvement.

To further support a better quality of life, memory care facilities have environments that are specially designed. Memory care environments are soothing to the eye and feature plenty of soft surfaces and uplifting colors to help maintain calm. The layout of most memory care homes fosters safety and security while also discouraging wandering. There are visual cues on hallways and doors and open floor plans are available in abundance. Most centers even have memory boxes to help residents when their memory falters.

Staff in Memory Care Homes

Memory care homes have a wide range of staff available to ensure the residents are well cared for. Specially trained caregivers that have undergone specific training to support seniors with memory conditions are just a starting point. Staffing ratios will vary depending on the facility type and location. The lower number of residents per staff member the better. An average of 1:6, up to 1:10 is an ideal ratio for residents with higher levels of care needs. For moderate to low levels of care, a 1:12-1:20 ratio is acceptable. Many hands go into making sure memory care homes run efficiently, other staff members include:

  • Housekeeping Team
  • Administrative Staff
  • Dining Team
  • Medical Director
  • Facility Administrator or Director
  • Custodial Staff
  • Nursing Staff
  • Admissions Coordinator
  • Director of Nursing

Most residents will have their own primary physician, but a memory care center should also have a full-time physician on site. A geriatric physician is another important part of the memory care staff that may work full-time, or have contracts with the facility. For a memory care facility, it is also important that a neurologist is on staff. As this is a highly specialized field, most neurologists dedicate a specific number of days or hours to a memory care home each week. Memory care facilities that have a psychiatrist on their staff are also very effective. This will help with picking up on depression, isolation, and other emotional issues that are commonly seen in seniors with memory conditions.

How to Find Memory Care Facilities Near You

If you are not sure where to start your search for memory care, browse our full listing of all available memory care facilites in the U.S. Below you can see click on 1 of the 50 states where you are looking for memory care, and then further browse by city or state:

Prevention of Wandering and Other Safety Measures

Seniors who suffer from memory care conditions are commonly known to wander on occasion. In addition to wandering, getting confused, or even forgetting their whereabouts are also common concerns. Be it due to the progression of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or another memory condition, resident safety is of the utmost importance. Older residents, in general, tend to suffer from sundowners when the time changes from sunup to sundown.

In a memory care home, the staff will be trained to notice the signs of distress and also the onset of sundowning. They will also be trained to pay close attention to the seniors under their care to ensure they don’t wander off of the property or into restricted areas. Doors and dangerous areas will be locked to prevent potential injury, and the layout of memory care homes helps to reduce disorientation. Depending on the facility, residents may be outfitted with tracking bracelets or pendants that can help staff to keep an eye on their movements within the facility.

Wandering can be triggered by various things depending on a senior’s specific memory condition. Often, it can be as simple as a side effect of a resident's prescribed medication or just a need for physical activity. In other cases, wandering can be brought on by stress, memory loss, or no discernable cause at all. In a memory care facility, some protections in place help residents maintain healthy levels of physical and social activity while also helping them to cope with the side effects of their conditions.

Memory care homes will all have their own guidelines for safety and security, but there are also state regulations to consider. In memory care centers all areas that contain toxic, sharp, or otherwise hazardous materials much be kept in a secured space. There are even state regulations that dictate locked gates and doors are present around the perimeter of facilities that house memory care seniors. Memory care-friendly lighting and stairwell surface contrast are also regulated in most states for added protection. These regulations further help protect the most vulnerable among us from harm when they need care the most.

Pet-Friendly Memory Care Homes

Many seniors have pets that have been their steady companions for years. Moving to a memory care community often brings them face-to-face with the choice of leaving them behind. For most people, a pet is a part of their family and for seniors, leaving a pet behind is simply not an option. The good news is that while most assisted living homes and memory care centers don’t allow animals, there are special facilities that do allow them. For the most part, seniors with pets who are moving into a memory care center will undergo an evaluation. Every location is different, so make sure to ask about their rules before making a decision.

A typical pet-friendly memory care facility senior pet assessment will look to determine the following:

  • Is the incoming senior able to provide primary care for the pet?
  • Has the pet been trained and is it docile enough to be around other memory care residents?
  • Will the presence of the pet be a danger to the senior or other residents?
  • In the event that the pet must leave, will the senior be able to adjust?

If everything goes well during the assessment, there are also other common rules regarding pet ownership to consider. Most memory care facilities will have restrictions on animal breeds and sizes. Regardless of animal type, their vaccinations must be kept up to date. There is also a pet fee charged for their stay that is separate from the fee for memory care residency. All memory care homes will ask residents and their families to have a plan in place to take care of the pet if the senior is no longer able to care for it. Undomesticated pets and exotic animals are usually not allowed. In addition to the senior being able to care for the pet on their own, there is typically a 1 pet limit per person.

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