Memory Care: 101

Nearly 8 million people are diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s each year. If your loved one has been diagnosed, they are not alone. Upon learning your loved one is developing dementia and Alzheimer’s, it’s encouraged to begin adapting to this new way of life quickly – both for your aging loved one and yourself. Understanding the symptoms and how your loved one’s life will change with dementia or Alzheimer’s will allow you to help them adjust and adapt smoothly. 

Understanding Dementia and Alzheimer’s

There are many forms of dementia, and it’s often that the terms dementia and Alzheimer’s are used interchangeably. The term dementia refers to loss of memory, language, problem-solving skills, and thinking abilities that affect an individual’s daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia in aging seniors.

What Is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that progresses over time. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s cannot be cured entirely, but medical management methods can be used to slow progression and manage symptoms. In its early stages, those living with Alzheimer’s usually experience mild memory loss, eventually leading to loss of ability to hold a conversation and respond to the surrounding environment.

Alzheimer’s disease affects the part of the brain that controls a person’s thoughts, language capabilities, and memory. It’s important to remember that Alzheimer’s isn’t a normal part of aging and is usually genetic. As Alzheimer’s progresses, an individual’s abilities to complete normal day-to-day activities is impacted, which is why different forms of medical management are utilized to improve an individual’s quality of life and mental functioning, as well as manage any behavioral symptoms.

The Importance Behind Routines and Structure

Those struggling with dementia or Alzheimer’s experience loss in memory, problem-solving, sense of time, and more. Developing a structured routine for your aging loved one is extremely important as this strategy will help them perceive their world in a predictable and understandable way. Many seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s feel they’ve lost their independence and experience low self-esteem and anxiety. Designing a structured routine will help improve your loved one’s quality of life, preserve their independence, and minimize the risk of negative emotional impact. Below are a few suggestions you can utilize to develop an effective routine for your loved one:

  • Customize a Routine. Every senior is different, meaning their daily routine should be centered around their unique needs and preferences. Routines should be based on what they’re already doing, as introducing new activities can affect overall progress.
  • Accept Their Offer to Help. It’s not unusual for a senior to want to help with household tasks, especially if it was part of their routine at one time. It’s recommended to accept their help and offer praise where necessary. Not only does participation help their cognitive abilities, but it boosts their feeling of independence and self-esteem.
  • Incorporate Familiar Tasks. As dementia or Alzheimer’s progresses, ordinary tasks can become challenging and unfamiliar. Establishing a routine with familiar tasks like mealtimes or when and where they get dressed is critical as this will help your loved one feel comfortable and safe.

Many activities can be added to your loved one’s daily routine to improve their quality of life and make each day enjoyable. Whether it’s incorporating activities that they find to be therapeutic like gardening and crafts or encouraging them to listen to music, each of these activities will help exercise their cognitive and physical abilities. It’s also recommended to utilize structure when creating your aging parent’s routine, such as setting activities for specific days and times each week. Structured days and weeks will help reinforce your loved one’s sense of time.

Memory Care and Living at Home

An aging adult’s judgment and ability to differentiate between safe and unsafe situations can deteriorate when living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Any potential hazards must be eliminated so your loved one isn’t at any unnecessary risk. To do this, conduct a safety assessment in your loved one’s home to identify any potential risks. From there, actionable steps can be taken to safeguard and create a comfortable and inviting environment for your loved one.

Perform a Safety Assessment

Power tools, cleaning supplies, regular home furnishings, and electrical cords can all put your loved one at risk. Dementia and Alzheimer’s impacts vision, which affects your loved one’s ability to perceive space, depth, and safely navigate areas that were once familiar. It’s recommended to perform regular safety assessments of your loved one’s home, so any potential risks that may create an unsafe environment can be alleviated. Following are a few pointers as to how you can create a comfortable home for your loved one if transitioning them into a memory care community isn’t ideal or necessary at this time.

Create a Comfortable Home

Living with dementia or Alzheimer’s can create risks in areas of your loved one’s home that were once safe. If you’ve recently learned your loved one is developing dementia or Alzheimer’s, you must prepare and safeguard their living space to better fit this new way of living. Whether installing grab bars in your loved one’s bathroom, checking for adequate lighting, or ensuring electrical appliances and cutlery are stored out of reach, there are many spaces in your loved one’s home that can be checked and enhanced, such as:

  • Bathroom: Non-skid mats, shower chairs, handheld showerheads, etc.
  • Bedroom: Alternative toilet receptacle, waterproof mattress protector, security monitor or bell, etc.
  • Kitchen: Regular refrigerator content maintenance, disabled cooking appliances, step stools, ladders, etc.

As your loved one continues to live with dementia or Alzheimer’s, it’s not unusual for them to require more frequent assistance, routine care, and more. Because of this, it may be time to consider making the transition to a quality memory care community. But how do you choose? We’ve outlined a few of the top qualities that the experts at New Perspective encourage you to consider when choosing your loved one’s new home.

What Makes a Quality Memory Care Community?

Memory care communities are areas for those living with the cognitive challenges of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Memory care is a customized style of nursing care that focuses on working with these individuals and the challenges they face daily. In a memory care community, your aging parent will have access to around-the-clock medical treatment, personalized care plans, numerous amenities, enjoyable activities, and more. Those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s thrive off structure and comfort, which is why finding a quality memory care community is vital. Read on to learn about a few leading qualities that make up top memory care communities like New Perspective.

  • Staff-to-Resident Ratio. There should be a realistic staff-to-resident ratio, so your loved one always has access to high-quality care. The team of caregivers should be familiar and experienced with dementia and Alzheimer’s and promote a positive, friendly environment.
  • Customized Care Plan. No senior’s needs are the same, especially when it comes to dementia and Alzheimer’s. A quality memory care community should offer customized care plans based on your loved one’s physical and emotional needs.
  • Amenities and Activities. Memory care communities offer a variety of enjoyable amenities and activities for residents to enjoy. When choosing the memory care community for your loved one, it’s essential to consider the hobbies and activities they love to be sure they’ll have safe access to these in their new home.
  • Environment and Design. Seniors struggling with dementia or Alzheimer’s thrive off a comfortable and inviting atmosphere due to visual and spatial information being processed differently. Many memory care communities cater to these needs by incorporating unique design elements like varying wall textures and coloring, a circular floor plan, and more.
  • Emphasis on Community. Socializing and regular interactions are essential for every senior. It’s important to consider how a memory care community caters to a sense of community. This includes scheduled group activities and outings, daily communal games, or group dining.

Help Your Loved One Adjust

Here at New Perspective, we know how life-changing it can be to learn your loved one is developing dementia or Alzheimer’s. However, there are many steps you can practice to create a safe and comfortable environment for your loved one – both at home and in a memory care community. By familiarizing yourself with the various forms of dementia and the needs of each, you’ll soon learn how to help your loved one adjust correctly – whether through structured routines, a safe home environment, familiar tasks, or making the transition into a quality memory care community. Contact New Perspective today for expert advice and guidance regarding a new home for your senior loved one.