Dealing with Memory Loss, Dementia, or Alzheimers? We're Here to Help!

Do you have a loved one struggling with memory loss issues, Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease? Are you looking for a community that can offer them the level of quality care necessary to keep them safe but don’t know where to start? Read on to get the information you need to begin the process.

Find the best care for your loved one

Memory care may be an option to consider when it becomes difficult to care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia at home. A memory care facility is a long-term care facility that can provide intensive, specialized care to people who have memory issues.

Assisted living facilities, continuing care retirement communities, nursing homes, and assisted living communities offer special memory care neighborhoods to patients with dementia. Stand-alone memory care facilities are also available.

According to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, a nonprofit that tracks trends in the industry, memory care is the fastest-growing segment of senior housing. In 2020, occupancy rates plummeted as COVID-19 ravaged many long-term care facilities.

Megan Carnarius, a registered nurse and dementia consultant in the Denver area, says memory care facilities have struggled to staff after the pandemic. Considering whether memory care is right for your loved one, it’s crucial to visit and ask questions.

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What makes memory care different?

Memory care involves creating a structured, safe environment with routines to lower stress for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Staff at a memory care facility provide meals and assist residents with personal care tasks, just as they would at an assisted living facility, but they are also specially trained to handle the issues that arise with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Assisting residents with navigating their daily lives, they check in more frequently and provide additional structure and support.

“In regular assisted living, residents are expected to manage their own time; menus and mealtimes are posted, but staff is not checking in on them,” Carnarius says. Memory care staff ensure residents are eating, participating in activities, and moving on to the next thing.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 6 out of 10 people with dementia wander. Therefore, memory care facilities have alarmed doors, elevators that require a code, and enclosed outdoor spaces to keep residents on site. Many offer tracking bracelets that give residents the freedom to explore but still allow staff to monitor their location.

Activities are designed to improve cognitive function and engage residents at different stages of the disease.

Is your loved one ready for memory care?

Many people diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s can live on their own during the early stages of the disease, especially if there is someone available who provides regular, in-home support. However, there most likely will come the time when your loved one needs more specialized care than can be provided at home. Here are some questions to help you determine if it’s the right time to make that move.

MORE THAN 6 MILLION AMERICANS ARE LIVING WITH ALZHEIMER’S. BY 2050, THIS NUMBER IS PROJECTED TO RISE TO NEARLY 13 MILLION.

1 IN 3 SENIORS DIES WITH ALZHEIMER’S OR ANOTHER DEMENTIA. IT KILLS MORE THAN BREAST CANCER AND PROSTATE CANCER COMBINED.

IN 2021, ALZHEIMER’S AND OTHER DEMENTIAS WILL COST THE NATION $355 BILLION. BY 2050, THESE COSTS COULD RISE AS HIGH AS $1.1 TRILLION.

MORE THAN 11 MILLION AMERICANS PROVIDE UNPAID CARE FOR PEOPLE WITH ALZHEIMER’S OR OTHER DEMENTIAS.

IN 2020, THESE CAREGIVERS PROVIDED AN ESTIMATED 15.3 BILLION HOURS OF CARE VALUED AT NEARLY $257 BILLION.

BETWEEN 2000 AND 2019, DEATHS FROM HEART DISEASE HAVE DECREASED 7.3% WHILE DEATHS FROM ALZHEIMER’S HAVE INCREASED 145%.

Choosing a memory care facility

You can start your search at Senior Living Communities Near You, an online directory of senior living communities. At the top, select Memory Care, choose your state and click “Start Your Search Here”. The results will include information on the types of care available at each community, their address and business hours. You are also able to request a tour from the site.

Once you have narrowed down your choices, the next step is to tour each community on your list several times, including an evening when most communities are staffed less. Here are some factors to consider in your search.

Physical environment and layout

How clean and pleasant is the facility? Is it designed with circular hallways so residents don’t get frustrated by dead ends? Can residents find their way around by using labels (with words and pictures) on rooms and doors? Are there enclosed outdoor areas with walkways? How happy are the residents?

Personnel

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many long-term care facilities are severely understaffed. Keep an eye on how the staff interacts with residents as you visit communities: Are their needs met quickly? Are there nurses on staff? Are employees trained in dementia-specific care?

“Ask how they manage a person who becomes aggressive,” suggests Laura Gitlin, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions at Drexel University and coauthor of the book Better Living With Dementia. “They shouldn’t be relying on antipsychotic medications.”

Food and activities

Does the facility provide activities that would engage your loved one? Does the staff use any strategies to motivate the residents to eat? At any residence you’re considering, Carnarious recommends having at least one meal and participating in an activity.

“Watch to see how staff engages residents during the activities,” she says. “Do they seem to know residents personally?”

Availability of continuing care

Complex medical care is not available in all assisted living memory care units. Find out what health conditions or behaviors might lead to your loved one leaving or being shifted to a more expensive level of care.

Also ask if the facility accepts Medicaid. If not, your loved one may have to move when he or she runs out of money.

A number of financial resources may be available to help cover the costs of care for the person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Some may apply now and others in the future. It’s best to talk to a financial advisor or elder care attorney and discuss your options.

Policies of COVID-19

Alzheimer’s patients living in long-term care facilities were particularly hard hit by the pandemic, and many felt isolated and lonely during lockdowns. The social restrictions caused agitation, severe behavioral disturbances, and mental health problems in people with dementia.

“They couldn’t remember why they had to wear a mask or why they couldn’t see their family members, so of course that was upsetting,” Carnarius says.

Ask about the rules that will take effect if an outbreak occurs. What type of visitation is permitted? What kind of communication will staff have with families? How will quarantined residents be handled?

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We understand the decision to place your loved one in a memory care community is often overwhelming, however necessary. When it comes to the care necessary for those who can no longer safely care for themselves, Senior Living Communities Near You is here to assist with the resources you need to make the best decision for you and your family.

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What is the cost of memory care?

The extra level of care and supervision offered in a memory care facility is not without cost.

According to 2021 NIC statistics, the average monthly rent for memory care is $6,935 in the U.S. This is more than assisted living, which costs an average of $5,380 a month, but less than the $10,562 average cost of nursing homes.

Costs vary from state to state and are influenced by the level of care provided.

In most cases, Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans will not cover room and board or personal care in assisted living facilities, but they will cover medical care provided by the facilities. Veterans who are over 65 and their surviving spouses are typically eligible for veterans benefits. In some cases, Medicaid may offer coverage for long-term care after your loved one has run out of assets, but only if their facility accepts it.

According to Richard Newman, an elder law attorney in Pennsylvania, most families who use memory care pay for it themselves. If your loved one purchased long-term care insurance previously, he says it can be a great help.

Alternatively, families may be able to sell personal assets or tap their life insurance policy’s “living benefits” to help cover the cost.

If you believe your loved one may require memory care, Newman recommends planning ahead. “There are ways to protect some assets and qualify for Medicaid, but it’s complicated, so I would recommend talking to an elder law attorney,” he says.

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