What Is Memory Care?
The Alzheimer’s Foundation estimates that 1 in 9 Americans over the age of 65 lives with Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia that causes memory loss, disorientation, and even depression. While many seniors’ needs can be met in independent or assisted living communities, memory care communities offer specialized care and programming geared toward seniors living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Memory care facilities are typically more secure than assisted or independent living to keep residents safe. Many people with dementia are prone to wandering, which when combined with memory loss or disorientation, can lead to devastating consequences. Memory care facilities also provide assistance with daily tasks such as dressing, grooming, and medication management or will perform wellness checks more frequently. The best memory care facilities go beyond fulfilling basic needs by providing programs or activities that enrich residents’ lives and give them a sense of purpose.
When is it time for a memory care facility?
There are often early signs that your loved one’s memory is declining. Pay attention to the following symptoms that could point to cognitive impairment:
- Increased agitation
- Poor hygiene
- Difficulty socializing
- Changes in behavior
These signs can not only make day-to-day functioning more difficult but also put your loved one in danger. For example, your loved one could forget how to drive or wander away from home and forget how to get back. It’s important to catch these signs early before there is a risk to your loved one’s safety.
Many memory care communities require that residents receive a doctor's evaluation and an official diagnosis of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other cognitive impairment. If any of these signs resonate with you, talk to your doctor to secure a diagnosis.
How do you tell a loved one it’s time to go to memory care?
Whether your loved one is moving into a higher level of care or entering an assisted living environment for the very first time, it’s important to have a direct, honest, and loving conversation about the transition to memory care. Keep these points in mind when you’re preparing to talk with your loved one:
- Clearly explain why you’ve made this decision. Emphasize that memory care can help them stay safe while still continuing to do the things they enjoy.
- Be prepared for any number of reactions, such as anger, confusion, or sadness. Respond with love.
- Remember that people suffering from dementia may forget where they are or why they are in memory care. You may need to have this conversation multiple times: press forward with patience and transparency.
It’s important–for both you and your loved one–to remember that transitions can be difficult. It may be uncomfortable at first, but pretty soon they’ll grow accustomed to the new environment and to the routines (set schedules are especially helpful for people living with dementia). Ask your memory care community if it offers family support groups to ease the transition.
What is Montessori-inspired memory care?
The Montessori-Inspired Lifestyle, or MIL, is an evidence-based approach to memory care developed by the Center for Applied Research in Dementia. MIL pulls inspiration from Dr. Maria Montessori’s work in child development and applies it to aging adults with dementia or other cognitive disabilities. Assisted living and memory care staff who undergo MIL training learn how to empower residents to be as independent as possible. This is achieved through tapping into each resident’s remaining strengths, designing environments where they can thrive, and helping them find purposeful activities and meaningful roles within their community.
What are some facilities that provide the Montessori method of memory care?
Any facility is welcome to practice the Montessori-Inspired Lifestyle, but there are only about 34 officially credentialed facilities across 22 states, including Oregon, Washington, California, Florida, Georgia, and Minnesota (view the full list of credentialed memory communities here). The Center for Applied Research offers three tiers of credentials: Bronze, Silver, and Gold.
Communities that effectively use Montessori principles benefit from healthier and happier residents, fewer drugs, fewer responsive behaviors, more satisfied families, and better staffing and census.
Did You Know? Villa Palazzo is the first MIL-credentialed community in Georgia and one of a handful that exists in the Southeast. Learn more.
Does a dementia patient improve with memory care?
Dementia is a progressive disease, meaning that one’s symptoms will only worsen over time. While a well-designed memory care program may not be able to turn back the clock, it can slow the progression and residents can enjoy living and even thrive. At Villa Palazzo, memory care residents have lots of opportunities to socialize and pursue their interests, an environment that fosters independence and engenders a sense of belonging.
What factors should one consider when choosing a memory care facility?
Not all memory care facilities are created equal. To ensure you find the best fit, consider asking the program director the following questions over the phone or during your in-person tour:
- How secure is the facility? People with dementia tend to wander, which can result in accidents or even death. Learn what security systems they have in place and how they mitigate these kinds of incidents.
- Does the facility offer 24/7 supervised care? Does it have a nurse available 24/7?
- How often are residents checked on? At Villa Palazzo, we’ve instated two-hour checks on all memory care residents.
- What kind of training to the staff receive? Do they receive training on how to support seniors with dementia or other cognitive impairments?
- Do staff assist with medication management? This is especially important for people with Alzheimer’s—missing even a single dose can be detrimental.
- How’s the food? How does the memory care facility ensure residents receive proper nutrition?
- What does the average day look like? How much unstructured time is there and what kind of planned activities does the facility offer? While daily tasks may become more difficult for seniors with dementia, this does not mean that they can’t enjoy living! A successful memory care facility will not only care for residents' needs but also enrich their lives and allow them to continue to do what they love, whether that’s pursuing hobbies, serving others, or going out to eat with friends. At Villa Palazzo, we focus heavily on group engagement, which helps residents feel a sense of purpose and belonging.
- What kind of support does the facility offer to families? As we’ve mentioned before, the transition to memory care can be hard for the whole family and not just the person entering memory care. Some memory care facilities offer family support groups.
- How engaged are residents in making decisions about their own care? At Villa Palazzo, residents can join a council where they can voice their opinions and make recommendations to the staff. This feedback is valuable for our staff and builds confidence in our residents.
Looking for a Memory Care Community in Georgia?
Situated on beautifully landscaped grounds in Sandy Springs near Atlanta, Villa Palazzo is home to the first MIL Silver Level-credentialed memory care community in Georgia. Our Memory Care neighborhood is designed to foster a community-based experience for the residents, their families, and staff. Group engagement programs help to establish social roles and create a sense of belonging, while singular care plans encourage personal choice and autonomy. For a community that empowers those with dementia and offers opportunities to flourish, look no further.