By: Darleen Mahoney
When your loved one with dementia or other age-related memory problems is at the point where it is no longer reasonable or safe for them to live alone, you may need to find a community that is right for them. A community or facility that specializes in memory care. Do you know where to start? Do you know what to look for and how much does it cost?
The needs of folks with Memory problems such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other types of memory problems can vastly differ from those in need of long-term care. Choosing a memory care facility that is designed to meet your loved ones care not only includes their medical needs, but their comfort and safety.
Choosing the right memory care options may be confusing. To clear things up, assisted living communities offer special memory care units (SCU) in separate buildings, floors, etc. It’s important to make sure that the staff have training and can properly assist patients with dementia or impaired cognition. According to Mitzi McFatrich, executive director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care, “they can offer staff extensively trained in caring for people with dementia, individualized care that minimizes the use of dangerous psychotropic drugs, a home-like environment and activities that improve residents’ quality of life. But at their worst, they may offer little more than a locked door.” https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T027-C000-S004-how-to-choose-a-memory-care-unit.html. Be cognizant of this and do your research on the staff, training, and commitment to the overall well being of their residents.
Another option would be an independent memory care community which is distinct from assisted living, these memory care communities will have specialized skilled nursing in memory care.
Memory Care communities and care have higher costs involved due to the level of care that is required for their patients. Inquiring at the community or facility on the types of financial aid and availability to utilize Medicare or Medicaid may also provide additional financial support.
According to the National Investment Center for Senior Housing and Care, “every 66 seconds someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s, long-term care providers are rushing to offer memory care services. As of mid-2016, memory care facilities had the capacity to care for more than 65,000 residents-a 44% increase over the past 5 years.” Therefore, more and more facilities are being built and more focus is being put on the need for this type of care.
According to, https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-residential-facilities.asp#choosing it’s important to choose your setting as they make these recommendations:
- Plan on visiting several care facilities. Look around and talk with the staff, as well as residents and families.
- When you visit a care facility, ask to see the latest survey/inspection report and Special Care Unit Disclosure form. Facilities are required to provide these. The report and the disclosure form can give you a picture of the facility’s services.
- Visit the facilities at different times of the day, including meal times.
- Ask the care facility about room availability, cost and participation in Medicare or Medicaid. Consider placing your name on a waiting list even if you are not ready to decide about a move.
- If you will be paying for the facility out of pocket, ask what happens if the person with dementia runs out of money. Some facilities will accept Medicaid; others may not. If you anticipate the need for Medicaid either now or in the future, plan to visit with a lawyer that specializes in elder care prior to moving into a facility to ensure a good financial plan is in place.
With the need growing and more facilities/communities being built and opened to accommodate memory care residents, there is more thought being put into the design and types of communities and facilities that folks in need of memory care will need to make them feel more at home. Country Living magazine featured a facility in Ohio that built a community that is designed to look like a small town from the 1940’s while each resident has a “little house”, https://www.countryliving.com/life/a39630/nursing-home-tiny-houses/. There are communities that are including nurseries and doll therapy as new techniques arise in how to address the anxiety and stress that many patients with memory loss feel, https://khn.org/news/when-pretend-play-is-real-for-alzheimers-patients/.
Finding the Memory Care community that is right for your loved one should always include, online reviews, multiple visits to the facility without making an appointment, talking to friends and family of residents of these communities and staff. Until there is a known cure for this disease that continues to increase in diagnosis year after year, the need for these communities and care will only increase.
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