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Memory Care: Your Complete Guide

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A senior couple look through a photo album together as part of memory therapy

If you’ve noticed a loved one experiencing memory loss, then keeping them safe and happy is no doubt on your mind. It can be stressful to consider how their life might change following a dementia diagnosis. For many individuals, moving to a memory care community can provide just the right balance between independence, support, and enrichment.

By getting to know the facts about memory care, dementia, and the resources available to support people as they age, you can feel confident about making a decision to support your loved one now and in the future.

What is Memory Care?

Memory care, also known as Alzheimer’s care, refers to a community that provides safe, secure housing and 24/7 support for people living with dementia. Memory care communities are thoughtfully designed based on evidence-based strategies to deliver a better quality of life for residents.

The communities themselves are secure to prevent wandering, which is a common and potentially dangerous behavior from people with dementia. Suites are often personalized and color-coded to help reduce confusion and getting lost. 

Importantly, staff at memory care communities receive special training to support individuals with cognitive changes to help them feel respected and cared for, whatever their abilities. Dementia-specific therapy is available, and enriching activities that bring fun to the daily routine are a key part of memory care, too.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a term for the impaired ability to remember, think, and do everyday activities. By far the most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, accounting for 60–80% of dementia cases.

The strongest risk factor for dementia is age, with most cases found in people over 65. But while older adults are the most likely group to experience dementia, it’s not a normal or inevitable part of aging.

There’s not yet a cure for dementia, but supportive therapies and a healthy lifestyle can help people with dementia enjoy a higher quality of life for longer.

How is Memory Care Different from Assisted Living?

Some communities, including Polar Ridge Senior Living, offer both assisted living and memory care to accommodate residents with different needs. This can also allow people to age in place, meaning they can continue to live in the same community even as their needs change.

Notably, memory care provides a higher level of care and therapy designed for those living with Alzheimer’s or other types of memory loss. In contrast, residents of assisted living have a high degree of independence, but will often receive support for daily activities like getting dressed or personal grooming, as needed.

How is Memory Care Different from a Nursing Home?

A nursing home may serve residents with dementia, but it’s very focused on providing the intensive medical care its residents need. Most residents of a nursing home have debilitating physical or cognitive disabilities that require round-the-clock care.

Because of the medical nature of a nursing home, it may not be the right spot for someone who is in the early stages of dementia and isn’t living with additional serious disabilities. A nursing home may not be able to deliver all of the important cognition-related therapies that a dedicated memory care neighborhood can. 

What Training do Memory Care Staff Have?

Staff who specialize in caring for patients with Alzheimer’s receive specific, thorough, and ongoing evidence-based training. They have a passion for working with older adults and the skills to connect personally with the people they support.

Excellent memory care staff are fantastic communicators who take the time to actively listen to individuals, get to know them, and adapt a conversation based on a person’s style and ability to communicate.

At Polar Ridge Senior Living, all of our staff have comprehensive training, including certification through the Alzheimer’s Association, and our specialized Enriching Connections Dementia Certification. We’re dedicated to providing exceptional care, dignity, and independence to our community members.

A smiling senior woman holds a small dog as part of pet therapy

How do Residents Spend Their Days in Memory Care?

Best practices for caring for people with dementia highlight the importance of helping individuals to be as independent as possible. Care should be person-centered. That means providing activities that are related to a person’s interests and life history, not just a one-size-fits all approach. Ideally, care is delivered in a drug-free manner.

People living with dementia typically enjoy a better quality of life when they’re able to stick to a daily routine, and that’s key to the approach taken in memory care. A day will typically include a variety of social and therapeutic activities, including:

  • Occupational therapy to adapt to and develop new habits to deal with changing abilities
  • Music therapy, including listening to music, singing, or playing an instrument
  • Art therapy, including making art and appreciating it with others
  • Pet therapy, which can include visiting with an animal, petting them, or even taking them for a walk if possible
  • Reminiscence therapy, which involves recalling memories from earlier in life and can help lower stress levels and increase social interaction

What are Some Signs of Cognitive Decline or Dementia?

Only a doctor can diagnose dementia, but you may notice some changing behaviors in your loved one that cause you to wonder if they may be experiencing memory loss. Early signs of dementia include a person:

  • Forgetting where they put something familiar
  • Forgetting the names of people they know
  • Getting lost when traveling somewhere new
  • Showing declining performance at work
  • Having trouble finding the right word
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Experiencing difficulty remembering recent events
  • Anxiety symptoms related to these memory-related events
  • Denial of these symptoms

How do I Know if Memory Care is Right for my Loved One?

In the early or even middle stages of dementia, it may be possible for a person experiencing memory loss to live alone or at home with family. But because dementia is progressive, the individual’s needs will change over time, and these needs can become overwhelming for a caregiver or just unsuited to the home environment. 

It might be time for your loved one to move to a memory care community if: 

  • It’s become unsafe for them to live alone
  • They’re not getting the care or cognitive stimulation that they need for a high quality of life
  • You (or their caregiver) are becoming overwhelmed, sick, stressed, burnt out, or experiencing a decreased quality of life
  • You (or their caregiver) are unable to support the aggressive or agitated behaviors that can arise with dementia
  • There are tripping hazards or stairs making mobility at home difficult
  • Proper nutrition and medication management are concerns
  • The structure and social opportunities at a memory care community would be beneficial

What Next?

There are so many details to consider when a loved one is living with dementia. We’re happy to answer any questions you have about safety, security, enrichment, and quality of life in memory care at Polar Ridge Senior Living. Please contact us directly with your questions or book a virtual tour. We’d love to meet you.

Written by Lifesprk

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