Many families who are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s arrive at a familiar crossroads. As the illness progresses, they are no longer able to provide the needed level of care that is now required.
Making the decision that it is time for memory care is not easy. But it can be the most compassionate decision you can make. Your focus will turn to finding the next best home for your loved one. But how?
Begin by researching what memory care includes, talking to friends and your loved one’s medical team for any referrals and then visit memory care communities in your area.
If you’re not familiar yet with what memory care communities offer, the following information can help familiarize yourself with some of the features you will want to find:
You’ll want to have a good understanding of the type of training that the staff has received since they will be the ones providing primary care for your loved one. Ask if they have received specialized education in the best practices of working with those with dementia.
Another feature of memory care is the staff-to-resident ratio the community provides and how this might change from daytime to nighttime hours. If possible, try to meet some of the staff as well as observe how they interact with the residents. You should be able to see their level of care and compassion.
The community’s layout and design can make a big difference in how comfortable the residents feel in their daily lives. Take note of the floorplan of the residences and the common areas and whether it seems to contribute to lessening or increasing anxiety and a sense of calm.
As those with Alzheimer’s often wander or pace, communities should address this need while minimizing their agitation. Look for a design that allows residents to feel as if they can move freely.
And be sure to ask about security. Are the doors alarmed and are there personal alarms? Is there an enclosed courtyard so the residents can enjoy being outside but still be safe?
Those living with Alzheimer’s can still enjoy a good quality of life. One misperception of dementia is that they don’t know or realize the condition of their life. But there are many steps that can be taken to provide each resident with the support they need that can make a big difference.
Ask what the community’s philosophy is about enhancing their residents’ quality of life. Do they offer different treatment or therapies that speak specifically to the resident and their individual needs? One example of this could be discovering that music was important to a resident and then providing music therapy opportunities which can spark connections when others have been lost.
Ask how the staff gets to know each of their residents individually, including likes and dislikes. Do they make the time to know what is most likely to upset their residents, make them anxious or fearful and what responses work best to calm them or make them feel safe?
Are they aware of the person’s back story, what career they may have had and their type of personality? By really getting to know someone, it becomes much easier to connect. For example, if someone was always a leader or in charge, it would be reasonable to assume that they might react differently depending on how a request is made.
A healthy diet is important for those living with Alzheimer’s but getting nutrition can become a challenge as they progress through the illness. People may not recognize the food, become unsure what they are supposed to do, may be more likely to choke, or struggle to sit long enough to eat.
A benefit of memory care is knowing the best tips to help residents receive the nutrients they need. Keeping the menu simple and offering only a few selections on the plate is helpful. Another tactic is to use different colors and textures to differentiate between the table, the plate and the food. Serving finger food, especially for those who can no longer use utensils, can help them maintain some independence. For those who are restless, they can walk while they eat this type of food.
Regardless of the different abilities of the residents who make their home in a memory care community, everyone should always be treated with respect and dignity. Even the simplest of acts can make a difference in how your loved one will feel.
The staff should make direct eye contact and never speak about the person as if they are not in the room. It’s also important to recognize that the person is much more than their illness. They had an entire life before they were diagnosed with this disease. Taking the time to recognize them for all that they are goes a long way to make them feel as if they still matter.
When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it impacts the entire family. Everyone will be living with the effects of Alzheimer’s and it’s important that the family knows there is support for them as well in the memory care community.
A welcomed feature of memory care is that they can offer great educational resources, support groups or someone who can answer your questions. As Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, behaviors and symptoms continually change. It’s nice to know that you are not traveling down this road alone.
You’ll discover that there are many benefits of memory care that can help your loved one feel safe and secure. But it is important that the staff be able to connect with the residents in a way that also adds to their quality of life.
At Ingleside at Rock Creek Memory Support Assisted Living, you will find both.
If your loved one is beginning to require a level of care that exceeds what you are able to offer at home, we hope you will consider our community. Our compassionate and caring staff, thoughtfully designed residences and common areas, therapies and amenities are all available to provide your loved one with the highest level of care delivered with respect and dignity.
Call (202) 846-2651 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a personalized tour today.