Memory Care: When’s the Right Time?

One of the most difficult decisions you may have to face is placing a parent or other loved one with dementia in a residential memory care unit. 

As Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia progress, they rob memory, thinking skills and the ability to perform routine daily living tasks. 

This eventually leaves people with dementia requiring 24-hour care to assure their safety. 

This type of care is often provided in a memory care unit – an independent facility or a designated section of a nursing home or long-term care community that focuses on the special needs of people with dementia. 

Even if you haven’t fully committed to making a transition, start gathering information and visiting facilities. You’ll want to make the decision thoughtfully and without hurry.

Memory care assists with:

  • Personal hygiene, including bathing and toilet use
  • Activities of daily living, like food preparation, handling money or doing laundry
  • Medication management

Making a Difficult Decision

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You may feel guilty and question if you’re doing the right thing, as you wrestle with whether to move a loved one from their home to 24-hour care at a memory care of similar facility. 

Signs that memory care could be appropriate for your loved one’s safety and well-being – and your peace-of-mind — include:

  • Your loved one has become unsafe at home, for instance, because she leaves her house to wander the neighborhood, randomly turns on the stove, and stays up all night and sleeps most of the day.
  • You feel the routine and stimulation provided by a memory care unit would likely benefit your loved one.
  • The stress of caregiving  is negatively affecting your health and mental outlook.
  • The stress of caregiving often makes you irritable and impatient with your loved one.
  • You are unable to care for your loved one’s needs due to work and family responsibilities – or you feel you are neglecting responsibilities to your work, family or self.

Even if you haven’t fully committed to making a transition, start gathering information and visiting facilities. You’ll want to make the decision thoughtfully and without hurry. The decision-making becomes much more difficult if you wait until a crisis.

What a Typical Memory Care Unit Provides

Quality memory care units provide their residents as much autonomy and dignity as possible, while caring for their physical and mental well-being in a safe environment. 

Memory care units commonly provide residents:

  • A supervised environment that allows free movement within the facility but prevents them from leaving the facility
  • Personal care and 24-hour supervision by trained staff 
  • Meals and medication management
  • Private or semi-private rooms
  • Exercise and social activities to stimulate residents and engage their senses, such as activities with music
  • Laundry, housekeeping and extra services like hair styling
  • Some medical services, including checkups, foot care and therapies

As you visit care facilities, talk with the staff, residents and their families. Is the staff kind, gentle and respectful as they care for residents?

Ask about ratio of staff to residents at different times of the day and night. Check out the food, ask about services provided and whether there’s a waiting list. Inquire about monthly costs and whether the facility accepts Medicare or Medicaid. Make sure you have a financial plan before moving your loved one into a facility.

Ideally, the memory care unit should improve the living situation for your loved one with dementia and you and other family caregivers.

Small Steps: Add Blueberries and Walnuts.
These additions to your yogurt help boost memory and fight Alzheimer’s disease.