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How Memory Care Enhances Quality of Life for Those Living With Alzheimer’s Disease

June 20, 2023

Each year, in observance of Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month in June, the Alzheimer’s Association asks people to wear purple throughout the month to help bring greater awareness to the disease that currently affects an estimated 6.7 million adults age 65 and older — and their families.

Still No Cure, Though Hope Persists

Although Alzheimer’s is by far the most common cause of dementia (accounting for up to 80% of all cases), there are other types of dementia. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, which leads to difficulties with memory, thinking and behavior, but researchers continue to search for one. In the meantime, new treatments have been approved in the last couple of years to treat the symptoms of the disease.

Many years can pass before symptoms appear, and even after a diagnosis has been made, older adults living with the disease may be able to remain in their home with appropriate care, whether it’s provided by family members or skilled professionals who provide in-home care. But, as the disease progresses and symptoms worsen, the care provided in the home may not be enough.

When Home Care Is No Longer Adequate

In later stages of the disease, people living with Alzheimer’s may require around-the-clock supervision to ensure their safety and the safety of others. They are also likely to need increasing assistance with activities of daily living.

Many people with advanced Alzheimer’s tend to wander, and if left unattended they can become lost. Memory issues may lead them to forget to turn off the stove or bathtub faucet. They may forget to take their prescribed medications or take incorrect doses.

Before someone with dementia reaches the point where any of these scenarios could occur, it’s wise to consider other care alternatives.

Asking for Help Is Not Admitting Defeat

If family members have been providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, they may become overwhelmed and exhausted. Other relationships and responsibilities may be affected. But despite their struggles, family caregivers may feel guilty about seeking help.

In virtually all cases, getting help — for instance, by finding a qualified and comfortable memory care or memory support community — is the kindest thing they can do for themselves and their loved one. The person with Alzheimer’s benefits in many ways, which we’ll expand on below, and family members can rest assured their loved one is in good hands. They can resume their roles as spouse, daughter, son or sibling, providing love, support and encouragement.

What Is Memory Care?

Memory care is a higher level of assisted living or skilled nursing care that is designed to meet the specific needs of those with dementia or cognitive impairment. These needs are varied, ranging from physical and medical needs to social and emotional requirements.

Memory care takes a holistic approach, treating the person rather than the disease. The overarching goal is to help people with memory issues associated with cognitive impairment or dementia maintain as much dignity and independence as possible.

Specialized Care Providers

Memory care staff are trained to provide personalized care that can help each person participate in activities to the best of their abilities, enjoy relationships with others and potentially improve their physical and emotional well-being. In short, this specialized care helps people experiencing cognitive challenges or dementia live fuller, more rewarding lives.

Staff members in memory care communities treat the people they care for with respect and compassion, often forming close bonds with them. They also know that family members can feel anxious about their loved ones, so they’re conscientious about offering support to them as well.

And, because memory care staff often have specialized training in dementia care, they know what to watch for and can monitor residents for physical and behavioral changes, adapting each person’s care plan as necessary to achieve the best results.

Additional Benefits of Memory Care for Seniors

Along with the advantages of living in a calming, structured, secure environment with attentive, specially trained staff to attend to their needs around the clock, residents in memory care communities benefit from:

  • Nutritious meals. It’s not uncommon for people with dementia to forget — or refuse — to eat. Most memory care communities provide three meals and snacks each day that meet the specific nutritional requirements of older adults while accommodating their personal preferences and dietary needs. Many communities incorporate diets associated with enhanced brain health.

    Memory care staff are experienced in communicating with residents who demonstrate resistant behavior, which can arise at mealtime. They work with each person to develop tailored care techniques that can successfully avoid the triggers that lead to such behaviors.

  • Engaging, personalized activities. As Alzheimer’s progresses, it becomes harder for those who have the disease to communicate and express themselves. As a result, they withdraw from social activities, conversations and even pastimes and hobbies they’ve enjoyed for many years.

    Professional caregivers in a memory care community are adept at using various activities with sensory stimuli, such as musical games and karaoke, art projects, gardening and baking, to engage residents on their own level and give them opportunities to participate in a group setting. They also spend time individually with residents, getting to know them, drawing them into conversations and, if appropriate, giving them simple tasks so they have a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

    Living in this type of environment, where they are with others like themselves as well as familiar staff and caregivers, residents always have opportunities to socialize if they want to. Not only does this keep them from feeling isolated, but it is also beneficial for their cognitive health.

  • Access to health services. Whether or not they’re part of a larger senior living community with a health center, many memory care communities have nurses and certified nurse assistants on staff to provide medication management, health monitoring and other related services. In some cases, a medical director may be part of the staff or a physician may be on call at all times.

    In most memory care communities, the staff also works closely with residents’ doctors, and transportation to medical appointments is available.

Protecting Brain Health

Although a decline in some cognitive processes — such as processing speed and certain memory and executive function abilities — is common as we get older, neither cognitive impairment nor dementia are part of the normal aging process.

Age-related changes in cognitive abilities vary considerably from one person to the next. Some differences can be linked to genetics. Other factors that contribute to cognitive decline include medical illnesses, psychological conditions, and hearing and vision impairments.  

Fortunately, research indicates there are steps we can take to safeguard brain function and potentially lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The National Institute on Aging offers this list of lifestyle behaviors, with detailed information for each, that may make a difference in cognitive decline:

  • Take care of your physical health
  • Manage high blood pressure
  • Eat foods that promote good health
  • Be physically active
  • Keep your mind active
  • Stay connected socially
  • Manage stress

These same steps may also be helpful in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Research Association.

Choosing the Right Memory Care Community

There can be substantial differences among memory care communities, and choosing one for someone you care about is a big decision.

After doing preliminary research, you’ll want to spend time in the communities that seem like they may be a good fit. Tour the community to see what kind of security precautions are in place and check out the dining areas and menus. See what kind of wellness programs and social activities are available.

While you’re there, talk with the caregivers, if possible. At the very least, observe as they interact with residents so you can get a feel for what kind of approach they take. Ask about any special qualifications they may have to work with people who have dementia.   

Ultimately, if you find more than one memory care community that meets all of your requirements, you may end up choosing the one where you think your loved one would be most content.

Memory Support at Emerald Heights

At Emerald Heights, we make it a priority to treat all residents, including those in our memory support neighborhood, with patience, kindness and respect. It’s important to us that they feel comfortable and at home, whether they’re with us for independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing care or memory care.

Our memory support staff is specially trained to care for residents with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, providing customized care to meet each person’s unique needs. We also understand the emotional toll dementia can take on family members, so we offer them support throughout the memory loss journey as well.

We also offer some advantages you may not find elsewhere in the Redmond area.

For instance, our Life Care concept gives those who move to Emerald Heights as independent living residents priority access to all levels of care offered right here in our community — including memory support, should they need it. The only additional costs at that point would be for meals, personal care and ancillary costs, which makes preparing for whatever lies ahead much simpler.

Something else that sets us apart from many communities is the option to join us directly at the assisted living level when we have residences available.   There’s a lot to consider, and we’re here to answer your questions. If you’re ready to schedule a visit, let us know and we’ll arrange a time that’s convenient for you.

Featured Image: Jake Johnson Photography, 2021