How to Evaluate a Memory Care Program for a Loved One

Sunrise Senior Living  |  February 19, 2020
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When a senior is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, or a similar form of dementia, families often begin to explore senior care options. Family members may need support with their elder’s personal care or help with keeping a senior safe while they are at work. Searching for short-term solutions may result in hiring a home care aide or enrolling in an adult day program.

As the older adult’s disease advances, the search for assistance may shift to assisted living or memory care communities. While these are two distinct types of care, they are frequently located on the same campus. A memory care program is often a dedicated area of an assisted living community. It is designed to meet the unique needs of adults with memory impairment.

If your family is beginning to visit memory care communities for a loved one, we have a few tips for conducting an objective evaluation of each option.

6 Tips for Evaluating a Memory Care Community

1. What is the community’s philosophy of care?

Dementia care providers have different approaches to delivering care. Learning more about each community’s method can help you choose one that is a good fit for your loved one. For example, do the community’s caregivers use the Validation Method to gain better insight into what a resident with dementia is struggling with or do they believe in reality orientation or therapeutic lying practices?

Asking questions about philosophy of care is essential for choosing a memory care community with values that align with yours.

2. How does the community get to know new residents?

Because Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia often cause a loss of verbal skills, an older adult who moves to a memory care community might not be able to answer questions or convey their personal information to team members. That’s why it’s important to find out how the community gets to know new residents and learns about their personal preferences from caregivers.

3. How does the team honor each resident’s life story?

A frustration adult children and family members often express is not having people see their loved one for the person they are. Instead, their disease seems to be the focal point. This leads to a loss of dignity and self-worth that families find devastating. Finding a memory care community that will honor all that their loved one is and has been is essential. Make sure your assessment of every potential community includes a complete understanding of this practice.

4. Does the team encourage independence?

Research shows that doing too much for an adult with Alzheimer’s, or related form of memory loss, can undermine that elder’s independence. By allowing residents to do as much as is safely possible, team members may help to slow the progression of dementia. Finding a memory care community that understands how to balance safety with independence is another important factor in making this decision.

5. Are unique life-enrichment activities offered for memory care residents?

Daily programs and activities can enhance the quality of life for people with dementia. You’ll want to take time to learn about those offered specifically for residents in memory care. Do activities occur all day long, every day? What types of programs are offered? Who coordinates these events and what is the background of those who design them?

6. What steps are taken to aid in making a smooth transition?

When an adult with memory impairment experiences a change in environment, such as moving to a new home, it can be very stressful. Planning for the days leading up to and after the move will be important. Ask each community you visit how they help new residents adjust to this change.

Our final suggestion is to prepare a list of questions to ask on your community tours. This article, Questions to Ask When Choosing a Senior Living Community, will give you a better understanding of issues ranging from dining services to life enrichment

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