Aging brings about many changes, including some that may compromise seniors’ ability to remain independent. In such instances, many families consider assisted living facilities for their aging relatives.
More than 835,000 Americans currently reside in assisted living communities, according to the National Center for Assisted Living. While communities and homes provide various services, one service in particular may be needed for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, other dementias or memory problems. Memory care units are separate facilities that cater to people with dementia or other memory issues.
According to the senior residence referral and resource guide A Place for Mom, memory care is a distinct form of long-term skilled nursing. Also called special care units, memory care facilities provide 24-hour supervised care for individuals. This care is often carried out in a separate wing or floor of a residential facility or community.
Memory care facilities aim to provide a safe and secure environment for residents. This means limiting entry or egress to other areas of the facility for those who may have trouble navigating and remembering where they started out.
The Alzheimer’s Association notes that six in 10 people with dementia will wander and become disoriented. This is dangerous for the individual and others. Memory care units often have alarms and “wander guard” precautions in place to make sure residents cannot roam unsupervised and risk injury.
Another goal of memory care is to provide a stress-free, structured lifestyle that has set schedules and routines. This can help keep distress minimal and make for more comfortable and happy residents. In addition, memory care units offer programs that help slow the progression of dementias and cultivate cognitive skills.
Fitness exercises, games, specialty food programs, activities, and much more may be offered to make residents more comfortable.
Memory care facilities include common spaces for socialization, meals and activities.
“Alzheimer’s patients must maintain their activity, walking, interacting with music, and art,” says Lory Bright-Long, MD, CMD, of the American Medical Directors Association. “We have to awaken the senses so that the memory can have a hook. This is accomplished in the memory care setting.”
It is important for those considering assisted living and nursing home facilities to inquire about specific memory care units if a loved one requires this environment.