Experts in memory care have learned that environment plays a significant role in the well being of an individual struggling with dementia. Narrow, dark hallways with hospital-style equipment, low ceilings, small dark spaces; all contribute to an experience that fuels anxiety and a feeling of isolation in residents with dementia.
Thankfully, research has led to positive change. Today, it is possible to find environments that have been optimized for the well being of those with dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Knowing that, how can you make sure that the memory care environment you chose for your loved one is optimal for him or her?Here are some key attributes to look for as you evaluate different memory care communities:
- Light and spacious indoor environment. The physical spaces should not consist of long, narrow halls with institutional hospital equipment. Look for communities that take pride in providing more home-like furniture and lighting that is more natural and less harsh. The atmosphere should be inviting and welcoming with open spaces and lots of natural sunlight. Look for smaller areas as well, where family members can visit privately with loved ones.
- Authentically engaged caregivers. Caregivers should engage with residents in a meaningful way. Look for spontaneous conversations and interactions. Listen for warm voices and occasional laughter. Caregivers should display a genuine respect for residents as individuals.
- Familiar spaces. The community should have areas that are consistently used for specific functions such as music, exercise, TV, etc. Familiarity and predictability are important for individuals with dementia.
- Medical support. While there should be conveniently located medical support areas, they should be housed in cabinets or under counters in a way that blends in with the natural surroundings.
- Outdoor spaces. It is possible to provide a safe, secure outdoor experience that brings the healing, soothing qualities of nature up close to the residents. Look for central courtyards or outdoor areas with natural, secure boundaries.
- Safety with mobility. Safety is important, but should not restrict movement. Ask the staff to point out the various safety precautions. Ask them how they balance safety with respect for each individual’s need for personal space and freedom of movement.
- Respect for routines. Your loved one’s familiar routines should be respected. Caregivers should understand each resident’s routine and adhere to it.
- Privacy. Yes, it is achievable and desirable, even when residents share rooms. There should be small areas where a resident can sit and read or listen to music in their own space.
As you visit memory care communities, keep the above guidelines in mind. No single feature or attribute, alone, creates an optimum environment. It is the combination of many positive, interrelated aspects coming together that make a good fit. And, once you find that good fit, your loved one will experience a positive, dementia-friendly environment, and will be more likely to enjoy a higher quality of life, with a greater sense of security.
Take your time to find the right environment for your loved one. Let us know how we can help.