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In-Home Care or a Memory Care Community? Exploring the Options

What is the best environment for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease? Is it home? Is it in a memory care community? This is a tough decision, because it’s in our nature to keep our aging parent or other loved one at home for as long as possible. But how long is “too long”? And how do we keep our own feelings from clouding our thinking?

Below is a brief overview of some things to consider with both in-home care and memory care community options. The more you know, the better prepared you and your family will be able to make decisions.

In-home care:

Most seniors prefer to remain in the home they have lived in for decades. And who can blame them! They can stay in an environment familiar to them. And for you, there is no need to worry about the potential disruption of moving them out.  In fact, this may be an ideal arrangement in the early phases of Alzheimer’s. Here are some things, however, to take into consideration for in-home care.

  1. Safety: For a loved one with Alzheimer’s, as the disease progresses, home is no longer the “safe haven” it once was. Kitchens, bathrooms and every day appliances, once so familiar to them, can pose real dangers. You will want to retrofit the home to keep it as safe as possible. The good news is that there are products available to help keep your loved one safe. You can find most of them online.
  2. Round-the-clock care: As your loved one’s Alzheimer’s progresses, you’ll need to hire caregivers who are experienced with the disease. Remember, Alzheimer’s is not just a case of “mom getting old and forgetful”. It is a disease, which brings with it symptoms and manifestations that require 24/7 attention by a trained caregiver.
  3. Wandering: You will need to put safeguards in place to minimize the risk of “wandering”, a common symptom of the disease. Should your loved one, for any reason, manage to walk out the front door, they are at a high risk to lose their way and suffer physical and emotional trauma.
  4. Socialization: By socialization, we are referring to regular, organized contact with other people, preferable on a daily basis. What this does is to help keep the individual’s ability to respond and communicate for as long as possible. You will want to arrange opportunities for your loved one to get out among people; preferably those who understand their unique situation and can be supportive.

Memory care communities:

This is a care model that is growing in popularity. Memory care communities are unique from “assisted living” communities in that they are focused on providing care for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Safety, 24/7 experienced care and socialization are “built into” this environment by design. Here are some things to consider, however, before placing your loved one in memory care.

  1. 100% dedication to memory care: There are many assisted living communities that have added an area supposedly “dedicated” to memory care. This may not be an ideal arrangement in that your loved one may be cared for by individuals who are not highly trained in Alzheimer’s disease. Focus your search on those truly dedicated to memory care.
  2. Experience and training: As mentioned earlier, Alzheimer’s is a disease that requires the support of a skilled and highly-trained team. Ask about their standards, credentials and how up-to-date their training methods are. You are paying for this. Be vigilant.
  3. “Person-centered” care: This represents a high level of care that goes beyond traditional methods, respecting each individual and his or her unique qualities and preferences. Ask the executive director to explain their care philosophy.
  4. Environment: The building should be spacious and open with plenty of natural light. Don’t fall for the excuse that those dark hallways and old furniture are “home like”. It may be an excuse not to update their building and furnishings. Seek out communities that have been designed, from bottom up, for memory care. They do exist.
  5. Services and Amenities: Ask for specifics! Not all communities are the same. Many have hidden costs that you may not be aware of until you receive the bill.
  6. Continuing Care: Some memory care communities will no longer keep residents when their disease progresses past a certain point. Be sure to ask if the community provides “continuing care”. That means your loved one will be kept in familiar surroundings, throughout all phases of the disease.

Of course, there are many other things to consider, such as costs and insurance. That’s why it is important to speak with your family and your healthcare provider. And conduct your own research. Your loved one’s environment, and how it is managed, can have a major impact on their quality of life.

Anthem Memory Care has communities in several states. We'll be happy to answer your questions and provide a tour of a community near you.