When a senior you love is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, creating a plan that meets their needs is important. Primary care doctors often suggest that families begin investigating memory care programs.
But for many people, memory care is an unfamiliar term. We thought it would be helpful to explain what a memory care program is and how it differs from traditional assisted living.
What Does the Term “Memory Care” Mean?
In broad terms, memory care is a type of long-term care dedicated to meeting the unique needs of older adults who have Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia. Memory care programs are typically part of an assisted living community, but there are also standalone communities exclusively dedicated to adults with some form of dementia.
Utilizing specially designed living spaces and programming, memory care neighborhoods aim to keep seniors with memory loss safe while also enabling them to enjoy their best quality of life. At Sunrise, memory care is rooted in getting to know each resident in order to provide personalized care.
- The senior’s physician works with memory care team members to create an individual care plan. The plan is designed to meet the resident’s current needs and to look toward what they may require in the future. At Sunrise, this process begins before the senior even moves in.
- Caregivers receive special ongoing training to learn the best practices for communicating with and supporting residents who have memory loss.
Older adults in a memory care program also benefit from the following:
Dedicated dining: Adults with dementia can struggle to eat independently. A noisy or busy environment can make focusing on food difficult, loss of hand-eye coordination can make using kitchen utensils challenging, and vision problems can make it tough to distinguish food on the plate. This all can lead to poor nutrition and weight loss. Dining programs in a memory care unit work around these challenges to support mealtime success and encourage good nutrition.
Life enrichment: Life enrichment activities and programs are designed to allow those with memory problems to be and feel productive and successful. At Sunrise, each Reminiscence resident is assigned a life enrichment manager (LEM), who is responsible for creating a care plan based on the resident’s personal preferences. A calendar of daily events might include repetitive tasks known to soothe agitation, art or music therapy to help residents connect with memories and experience joy, and physical activity that promotes better sleep quality. Most memory care units also have a secure outdoor area for residents to safely enjoy the fresh air and participate in activities such as birdwatching or gardening.
Family support: A loved one’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia can have a significant impact on everyone who loves them, so memory care programs also focus on family support. From one-on-one family meetings to support groups that provide families with an opportunity to voice their fears, sadness, and frustration, memory care programs help families cope with physically and emotionally challenging issues.
We know dementia is a disease that can leave families with many questions. Rita Altman, senior vice president of Memory Care & Program Services at Sunrise Senior Living, has advice on how to take care of yourself, navigate family dynamics, and learn whether long-term senior living might be an option for your loved one. Listen to The Senior Caregiver podcast to learn more.
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