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The possibility that a loved onemay be developing Alzheimers disease or another memory impairmentcan feel overwhelming. With age, a reduction in cognitive ability naturally occurs, but more significant declines in memory are cause for concern. And if youre already caring for someone with a progressive neurodegenerative condition, you understand how challenging it can be. Giventhe physical and emotional toll such a responsibility can begin to take on a caregiver, its no surprise that many begin to seek out options for support.

Loved ones who take on this role often realize that the unique requirements of caring for an individual suffering memory loss are more demanding than they can realistically manage. In the interest of everyones well-being, they begin to ask some very important questions around the subject of memory care. Here, were providing expert answers to these common questions to help inform your search for the best possible option for you and your loved one.

For starters, what exactly is memory care?

Essentially,memory care is a specialized form of assisted living that caters to individuals faced with degenerative memory diseaseslike Alzheimers or dementia. These distinct memory challenges require no less than skilled professional support in order to maintain the residents health and safety. The best memory care communities also prioritize each residents mental acuity and emotional well-being, placing great focus on compassion, dignity, human connection, and opportunities for engagement.

Seniors with Alzheimers disease or dementia may easily become confused and even wander off at times, a particularly unsettling notion for their families. As such, memory care communities ensure a highly secure environment with locked doors and around-the-clock supervision. In an inclusive community, there are staff members caring for your loved one throughout the day, including essential functions likemedication management, personal hygiene, escorts to meals and activities, and impromptu requests for assistance. Specialized nursing teams are employed to optimize care plans as a residents needs change or evolve.

What are the signs that a loved one needs memory care?

Determining the right time for a move to a memory care community can be difficult for the families of those facing memory loss. Some wonder whether their loved ones memory issues are simply a manageable byproduct of the aging process or a more concerning issue of neurodegenerative decline. And even with a clear diagnosis, it can still be challenging to decide whats right for everyone involved.

To help families sort through the many considerations involved and feel more confident in the decision-making process,here are some signsand factors to think through:

  • Is the loved one becoming increasingly confused, overwhelmed, or aggressive?
  • Do they require a higher level of assistance with activities like bathing, dressing, etc.?
  • Are they neglectingproper nutritionand medication management?
  • Are they losing balance or considerably prone to falling?
  • Do they have a tendency to wander or lose track of their whereabouts?
  • Have they become more isolated or lost interest in connecting with family and friends?
  • Are they in need of greater emotional and mental stimulation?
  • Has there been increasing pressure or stress placed on the primary caregiver to adequately handle their level of care?

The answers to these questions will help shed greater light on whether memory care is the best solution for your loved one at this time. Keep in mind that care needs change over time, so whats working now might require more evaluation later on down the road.

How much is the financial investment in memory care?

Theres no universal cost for every memory care community out there, so expect to see a variety of different cost breakdowns for various options. For the most part, youll find thathigher levels of care are attached to higher costs. Remember, though, that the benefits of ensuring your loved one lives in a safe, healthy environment are practically priceless.

The overall expense will also depend on factors such as geographic area. In Connecticut, for example, you could probably expect to pay somewhere in the range of $7,000 to $12,000 per month. If that number seems out of range for you, there are additional options for subsidizing. Consider pathways like long-term care insurance, a reverse mortgage, the sale of a home, veteran benefits, and more. Ultimately, the smartest way to sort out financial obligations (and get a better handle on how memory care for your loved one might be paid for) is to speak with administrators at the memory care communities in proximity to your desired location.

What should families look for in a memory care community?

No good comes from making an impulsive decision about a memory care community for your loved one. This process requires thoughtfulness, information gathering, and the time toensure that youre selecting the most fitting onefor you and your loved ones needs. As you are visiting different communities, speaking with the staff, and getting a feel for each places environment, be sure to identify some of the following qualities:

  • A relationship-centered approach:Regardless of your loved ones changing situation and residence, you will retain an important role in their life, particularly as that of an advocate. Therefore, notice how the staff members interact with you as a caregiver and make sure you feel comfortable with the administration, nursing team, and recreation personnel. Not only will they be caring for your loved one during such a difficult time, but theyll also be your support for navigating all the complexities involved. Are they warm, caring, and empathetic? Do they cultivate strong relationships based on trust and compassion?

  • Plenty of opportunities and encouragement for social engagement:Attend activities with residents and your loved one, and find out what the social environment is like. Speak with the team about how they engage everyone, especially the more challenging residents. Because the human connection is so essential for seniors, especially those battling Alzheimers or dementia, there should be a myriad of ways the staff helps support interaction and friendships between other residents and staff members.

  • Steady routines with a focus on personal preferences:Having consistent routines and a rhythm to the day can help alleviate some of the stress felt by those living with memory decline. Reliable patterns should be established yet flexible enough to meet individual requirements and preferences. Talk with the staff about how they work with memory care residents and their families to understand unique needs and create structure throughout the day.

  • A philosophy of care and compassion:Seniors faced with the daily challenges of Alzheimers disease or dementia have much to contend with, but that doesnt mean they cant live a full and meaningful lifeespecially when supported by compassionate caregivers who understand the disease process. Learn what type of training the staff is given and how well it addresses the communitys philosophy of care. Also, find out how they respond when a resident is having difficult moments. Share some of the challenges you experience with your loved one, and inquire about what they have found to work in those cases.

Hopefully, these expert insights have helped answer some of your primary questions about memory care, but this guidance is only a start. Take time to explore the memory care communities near you so you can get even more answers to your questions and those of your loved one.


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