“It comes with age,” people often say as they begin to notice that their vision, memory, and physical health are not as spry as they once were. And it is true, these abilities due often decline with age.
But when is it too much? At what point do you begin to seek professional care? Well, we’re going to give you some clarity on that in the sections below.
Of the many seniors who call Weatherly Inn home, a good majority require memory care. And in seeing so many families struggle to navigate how to care for a loved one with memory loss, we believe we can help.
At Weatherly Inn, we understand how overwhelming and scary memory loss can be. Not only for those facing it but for their family members as well. There are a lot of decisions to make and things to understand. But it doesn’t have to be so hard.
This guide will help you understand what you need to know about memory care and the options you have for your loved ones that need it. After all, they deserve the best care possible at a place they can feel at home.
Keep reading or jump ahead to another topic:
- Memory Care vs. Skilled Nursing
- When Is Memory Care Necessary?
- How to Begin Your Memory Care Search
- Planning for the Cost of Memory Care
- Best Activities and Games for Memory Care
- Engaging Memory Care Exercises
1. Memory Care vs. Skilled Nursing
What Is Memory Care?
A certain amount of memory loss is expected as we age. Even though we can't see them, our brains are aging right along with our hips, knees, and faces. Just as we might lose some vision, hearing, and mobility as we age, we also lose some of our mental abilities. It's natural.
However, some folks suffer from more extreme situations, beyond the standard memory loss associated with age. We're talking about Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
If your loved one suffers from either of these conditions, life in a memory care home may eventually be the right choice for your family.
These special memory-care programs are thoughtfully created to help folks remember their family, friends, and personal history. Many of these activities are built on reminiscing about the past with other seniors. Activities can include photos, music, and anything else seniors might connect with. The goal is to help slow the progression of their disease. This can be especially helpful when done in the early stages of memory loss.
What Is Skilled Nursing?
Unlike other senior living situations — like independent living and assisted living — skilled nursing homes offer complete medical care around the clock. Folks in a skilled nursing home may have several complex medical issues. Their stay might be temporary if they are healing from a serious accident or surgery, in addition to their health problems. Some things to note:
- All skilled nursing homes provide personalized care for folks who need continual medical care. They'll help with daily living activities like bathing, getting dressed, and medication management.
- Since skilled nursing provides constant care by highly trained staff members, folks with Alzheimer's, dementia, and all sorts of other issues can receive the personalized attention needed for their unique needs.
2. When Is Memory Care Necessary?
Your Loved One Has Been Formally Diagnosed With Alzheimer's Disease or Dementia
Dementia is not a specific disease, but a group of symptoms relating to the loss of cognitive function. When our loved ones suffer from dementia, they'll have challenges with thinking and memory, to the point where they struggle to complete basic tasks like taking a shower or properly washing their hair.
Is Your Loved One Neglecting Their Hygiene?
Folks living with dementia may refuse to bathe, and it can have medical consequences like:
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Ringworm, and oral (mouth) issues.
If your family member is struggling (or refusing) to care for themselves, it can become incredibly stressful for caregivers, and memory care is likely necessary.
Wandering: When It's Unsafe to Care for Your Loved One at Home
Wandering out of the home, or even out of the neighborhood, is a tendency experienced by about 60% of Alzheimer's patients. We've talked about wandering elsewhere in our blogs. Memory care communities are always locked precisely for this reason.
Both related family caregivers and professional in-home providers can quickly become overwhelmed when incontinence becomes an issue. If you're struggling to cope with an elderly family member who is having this problem, know that you're not alone! Incontinence is one of the leading reasons families decide it is the right time for memory care.
Professional Memory Care Will Improve Your Loved One's Quality of Life, and Yours Too
Housing an extra human can quickly become costly. The added expenses of groceries, utilities, gas, and time investments can cause caregivers to burn out quickly. There is no shame in it! Caregiver stress and burnout are another leading reason families look into memory care.
Memory care homes provide the following amenities for dementia patients:
- a home-like atmosphere so your family member feels comfortable and at ease
- family-style meals, rather than cafeteria settings
- professional medication management by skilled nursing staff/medical care team
- access to your loved one's favorite doctors and medical professionals
- locked doors and gates to prevent wandering mishaps
- a primary caregiver to help with daily activities
- memory-building and cognitive exercises designed to slow the progression of the disease
- a well-trained staff that has a thorough understanding of dementia or Alzheimer's disease and their treatments
3. How to Begin Your Memory Care Search
Memory care is a different level of care that is far more comprehensive. You may also hear it referred to as an Alzheimer's care unit.
- Memory care homes often have 24-hour supervised care with skilled nursing teams. In an assisted living community, they can usually be found on a special floor or wing.
- The layouts of dementia care units are designed purposefully to reduce difficult navigation for those with cognitive impairment.
- A memory care community may be thoroughly locked and secured to prevent wandering among residents.
Dementia care units have dedicated memory care services intended to delay the progression of the disease. Every community is different, but additional services might include:
- Cognitive therapies, like music and art
- Exercise and physical well-being programs
- Social activities and other activities of daily living
- Outdoor occupational therapy, like gardening or painting classes
Write Out Your Expectations of a Memory Care Community
Before you begin your memory care search, spend some time brainstorming about your ideal Seattle-area retirement home. Every family is different, but your ideas may include:
- Open schedules for visiting
- One-on-one care with long-time staffers
- Transportation to doctor's appointments or worship services
- Highly trained RN's and a trustworthy nursing care staff
Don't Be Afraid to Ask Family Members for Help
Remember, you're acting as a caregiver for your parent, grandparent, or spouse. That doesn't mean the rest of the family doesn't care as much as you do. By allowing them to share their ideas and concerns, you'll make the process more meaningful for your entire family.
The decision to place a loved one in a memory care community is never an easy one. By working alongside other family members, and allowing them to voice their questions, opinions, and fears, you'll build a better communication highway among yourselves for the future.
4. Planning for the Cost of Memory Care
Your Options for Funding Memory Care Costs
There are a few sources to help pay for the costs of memory care, and many families will seek assistance from more than one source. We've put together a different blog on the topic of finance. From long-term care insurance to VA benefits, there may be financial assistance at your fingertips. But don't expect them to pay the entire cost of memory care.
You can always reach out to us to talk about your funding options. The best way to plan for the costs of memory care in the United States is to learn about your various options for funding.
Use Different Financing
Reverse Mortgages to Fund the Costs of Memory Care
Reverse mortgages are an option if your loved one owns their home outright, or at least has considerable equity available. Understand that:
- Reverse mortgages are loans, based on the home's value as collateral.
- You won't need to pay it back until you sell the home, or stop living there.
- If you fail to pay back the note, the home is at risk.
Know the limits
Medicare's Benefits for Memory Care Are Limited to 100 Days
Medicare won't pay for an infinite amount of time in a memory care facility. It will cover:
- 100% of the first 20 days of care
- 80% of the next 80 days of care
- Medigap or other Medicare supplement plans cover a portion of the costs of memory care, but only if your loved one is enrolled in the program. The benefit totals 20% of the care cost, but that can be a significant saving!
Many families try their best to keep an Alzheimer's or dementia patient in home health care for as long as possible. But eventually, a loved one's state of mind may deteriorate to the point that it's unhealthy, and even dangerous, for them to be without professional dementia care or memory care services. Planning the costs ahead of time can alleviate the stress and pressure of trying to figure it out in a crisis.
Use Weatherly Inn’s financial comparison planner to plan ahead.
5. Best Activities and Games for Memory Care
Traditional jigsaw puzzles
They are a reliable way to entertain our senior family members. Seniors can gain a solid sense of accomplishment once a puzzle is complete.
Brain Training Games for Memory Care
These games can improve memory, maintain brain health, and possibly slow the progression of Alzheimer's or dementia.
Create a Family Photo Album
Creating a photo album with your loved one is one of the most meaningful activities you can do. Small group interactions around the table are a great way to keep your loved one engaged!
Exercise & Outdoor Activities for Memory Care
Take a little walk (or wheel) around your neighborhood. Recent studies suggest that aerobic activity slows the progression of dementia or Alzheimer's disease most, but any kind of exercise is beneficial, even if your family member can't walk.
Go for a Scenic Drive
Everyone enjoys a little sightseeing now and then! A scenic drive can be a pleasant way to get out of the house and get some fresh air. Here at Weatherly Inn, we like to take our memory care residents out for several drives weekly and out to breakfast.
Get Into Gardening
Indoors, outdoors, in a greenhouse or a bright living room window — gardening can be fantastic for folks with memory care needs. Your investment is entirely up to you. Whether you're starting a few seeds on a windowsill or creating an outdoor oasis, gardening can be an incredibly rewarding activity that keeps your loved one engaged.
Day Trips and Special Outings
A special day out of the house is just as exciting to your senior family member as it is to the rest of us! Special events and gatherings can be great activities for folks in memory care, so don't avoid them during the regular course of things.
Music Activities Are Awesome for Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia
Music has wonderful effects that can help improve memory and cognitive abilities of folks who need memory care services.
Arts & Crafts
Opening your loved one up to creative outlets relieves the pressure of thinking and can help ease their mind.
6. Engaging Memory Care Exercises
Organizing Items: Household Chores Your Family Member Can Help With
There are some light household chores and organizing tasks your senior loved one can help with that also make valuable memory care exercises and offer some notable physical benefits.
These tasks will keep them engaged and involved and give them a sense of duty in the household. Consider these practical tasks as memory care exercises:
Folding laundry and putting it away in the correct drawer for themselves and others in the home
Matching socks from a basket
Putting away groceries in the pantry
Sorting through a junk drawer (with no knives in it)
Organizing books on a shelf by title, size or color
Scrapbooking: A Meaningful Memory Care Activity
As senior living communities encourage a physical exercise program, memory care facilities encourage mental exercises that are built on the concept of reminiscing. A great way to do that at home is to create a scrapbook or family photo album with your loved one.
Using Photos From Their Past
Whether you're scrapbooking, creating a collage, framing photos, or merely trying to pass a few hours on a rainy afternoon, use pictures from your loved one's past whenever possible. If you weren't present at the event, you could still jog their memory by discussing the photo's details. Ask them questions or make comments about the picture like:
What a lovely dress you had on that day. Do you remember where it came from?
This looks like it happened at a hotel; where was this at?
I can tell this photo was taken at the beach. I wonder which beach this is, it looks amazing!
By prompting them with some details, you might be able to bring the special event back in their memory. Be positive and discuss their clothing, shoes, the weather — any little detail might jog their memory.
Don't expect to schedule a two-hour session of laundry sorting or puzzles. Keep an eye on your family member. If they start getting frustrated, tired, or agitated, it's time to move on.
If you need help to provide the right care for your family member, in the form of temporary day & respite care, or if you're considering the move to a memory care home, then contact us. We're here to help.
We genuinely hope that this information has been helpful to you. As you navigate and search for the right memory care facility, you may have a lot of questions. And that’s okay. There’s a lot to consider, and a lot of information to absorb.
Just know that we are always here to help. For whatever questions you may have, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’re just a phone call away and more than willing to help in any way we can.