Selecting a memory care community can be a daunting task. However, knowing the correct questions to ask when visiting potential memory care communities can be a huge help. In this article, we will take a look at some of the things you should look for as well as questions you should ask when looking for a memory care community for a loved one. These questions fall into a few categories that are key to a successful experience in memory care. These categories include safety/security, memory care features, and staffing. We also recommend visiting the community as many times as it takes to feel comfortable with the staff, the programs, and memory care treatment options before making a decision.
Safety & Security
Memory care communities should have different safety and security features than a standard retirement community. These security features include keypad-secured entrances and exits to ensure that residents suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other memory-related issues are protected from areas that are not secure and staffed. All areas of a memory care community are carefully planned out to be familiar and free from items or design features that could be confusing or frustrating for residents with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other memory-related illnesses.
While many retirement communities utilize the same space for assisted living and memory care residents, it is important to find a community where the memory care unit has been designed specifically for residents suffering from memory issues. These specifically designed memory care units will often have landmarks, navigation aids, memory boxes, and other design features to provide a sense of comfort leads to a higher quality of life with fewer injuries, hospital visits, and increased social interaction for residents. These are just a few of the reasons we recommend finding a dedicated memory care community.
Memory Care Features/Therapies
Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other memory-related illnesses have become a national health issue over the past few decades. As such there are new studies coming out with advanced treatment methods as well as memory care features that a good memory care community should be aware of. There is strong evidence that memory care communities with memory care features and therapies can provide a higher quality of life for residents, leading to decreased behavioral issues and decreased symptoms. Treatments that have been recently studied and implemented include the following:
• Music Therapy – Many studies suggest that music is so closely tied to specific memories and moments that a song, melody, or tune can bring a person back to a specific moment or time-period with great mental clarity and detail. Most of us can remember a time where a song came on the radio, and we were immediately transported to someplace from our childhood that we hadn’t thought about in years. The same audible triggers have been shown to work for residents with varying degrees of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other memory-related illnesses. Some progressive memory care communities have started implementing music therapy by creating calming music stations where residents can hear songs from different time periods in their lives that are likely to produce vivid emotional responses. Oakmont Senior Living has provided this therapy to our residents for nearly a decade with great results.
• Memory Stations – For many memory care residents, the act of physically carrying out a task can become an immersive experience that allows them to recall other times when they were engaged in the same activity. Many forward-thinking memory care communities have simulated workbench stations, makeup stations, hanging wardrobe stations with clothing from varying time periods, and even nurseries where residents can engage with lifelike newborns. In some cases, simply engaging in a task like rocking a lifelike baby in a cradle can bring memories of their children back in vivid detail. The same is true with tinkering at a workbench, putting on makeup at a vanity station, or seeing time-period specific clothing hanging at a wardrobe station. These tactile and immersive experiences give many residents a sense of familiarity that can be extremely soothing, therapeutic, and helpful in memory care management.
• Memory Boxes – For some residents at a memory care community, remembering their room number can be a challenge that can have negative impacts on other aspects of daily life. For example, if you are at breakfast and are not able to recall your room number, it can cause anxiety, frustration, and a range of other negative emotions. These feelings of anxiety and frustration can cause a resident to miss out on much needed social interaction and nourishment. This is why many dedicated memory care communities have memory boxes in addition to room numbers. These boxes contain family photos, items that hold a great deal of importance to the resident, and visually unique items to help residents to more easily identify their rooms. For example, a former airplane mechanic may have a memory box outside of his room containing model airplanes that are identical to the ones he used to work on, and a few small tools from his toolbox as well as photos of him working on the aircraft. His memory box serves as a unique and visual room identification tool. Helping residents to identify their room greatly increases their autonomy and reduces feelings of anxiety, anger and frustration.
One of the most important components of a memory care community is the staff. Staff working in memory care community should undergo specialized training that addresses the unique needs of residents with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other memory-related illnesses. Twenty-four-hour caregivers are also staffed at a higher rate than most assisted living communities as the demands on a caregiver’s time are usually much greater in a memory care community. Another thing to make sure of is that a skilled nurse is on-site to oversee medication management and any immediate need events that may arise. Staff should be adequately trained to identify and address behavioral issues that can be associated with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other memory-related illnesses.
One of the biggest recommendations we have here at Oakmont Senior Living is to visit the memory care community you are considering as many times as you need to before making any decisions. Finding memory care placement for a loved one is a big decision and one that should not be taken lightly. Any community that does not offer tours, samples of their meals and details about their staff and staffing levels should raise a red flag. As always if you should have any questions related to memory care in Orange, CA or the needs of your loved one please never hesitate to contact us at any time.