It was not that long ago that, if your loved one was diagnosed with dementia, your only option would be to find an “assisted living” or a “long-term care” community. Assisted living is a term that refers to an environment where elderly residents are given assistance with their daily needs, usually with a nurse on staff to administer medications and respond to any medical emergencies. As the resident’s dementia progresses, however, they will typically need to transition to a long-term care environment.
Fortunately, over the last several years, research focusing on the dementia diseases, such as Lewy Body dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, has helped foster a deeper understanding of dementia, and has fueled a new generation of therapies and treatments. Along with this has emerged a new kind of senior living community commonly referred to as “memory care”.
Some assisted living and long-term care providers will carve out a “memory care unit” on a floor or wing of their facilities. However, there are new communities being built from the ground up to focus 100% on memory care. Which is better?
Here are five key advantages of communities devoted to memory care that experts have identified:
- Structural design: Memory care communities which are built from the ground up to serve only dementia residents bring special benefits. Safety is enhanced with building layouts that enable residents to walk about in a safe environment. Light is regulated to help reduce instances of confusion caused by “Sundown Syndrome”. Sensor and alert technologies are used so that residents are always watched over in a way that respects their dignity.
- Experience and training: Those professionals who are highly knowledgeable in dementia diseases are drawn to these new memory care communities. There they are more able to focus their skills and passions 100% on those challenged by dementias, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
- Level of attention, oversight: Individuals challenged by dementia require more individual attention. Residents of memory care communities are provided with a higher level of oversight and more one-on-one care than is found in other communities.
- Continuum of care: Memory care communities are more likely to provide continued care, as an individual progresses through all stages of dementia. The resident can remain in familiar surroundings without needing to be uprooted and sent to a long-term care facility.
- Education and community outreach: Because the community is devoted to memory care, they generally have better access to the latest information and research on dementia. Memory care communities, such as Anthem, regularly sponsor dementia support groups, educational seminars and events to enable families to connect with experts and other families.
In much the same way that doctors use specialists, memory care provides a degree of expertise designed to go far beyond general care. Even those communities which carve out special dementia units must ultimately spread their resources across a broad spectrum of residents.
It is for these reasons that professionals generally concur that memory care communities, built to serve solely the needs of individuals struggling with dementia, are able to provide a level of care and expertise that far exceeds that available with other providers.
Photo is courtesy of Highline Place, an Anthem Memory Care community in Littleton, Colorado.