What Is a Memory Care Facility? This Is What You Need to Know

50 million people are living with Alzheimer’s Disease and other types of dementia. Five million are in the U.S, and that number is expected to triple by 2060.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. It is also the fifth-leading cause of death for people over the age of 65. Caring for someone with dementia can be challenging, costly, and emotionally draining.

That’s why thousands of caregivers turn to a memory care facility for help with their loved ones. We’ll take a closer look at memory care facilities and what you need to know.

What Is Dementia?

We might tease our older relatives about misplacing their eyeglasses or temporarily forgetting a name, but those examples are part of the normal aging process.

Dementia, on the other hand, affects a person’s ability to live and function safely, even in their own home. Dementia is a general term used to describe a decline in a person’s mental faculties that is severe enough to need treatment. Alzheimer’s Disease is a type of dementia.

What Is Memory Care?

Memory care is a specialized type of senior living designed to care for people with dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease. A memory care facility may exist as a separate unit inside an assisted living facility. Or, it may be a stand-alone facility.

There are approximately 28,900 assisted living communities in the U.S. About 14 percent of them have a memory care unit. A little more than eight percent only treat patients with dementia.

A memory care facility or unit is designed for the unique needs of seniors with diminished mental acuity. These type of facilities are structured in such a way that they can provide a safe, controlled environment while allowing the residents to enjoy their time.

They’re similar to an assisted living facility but with additional safeguards in place. Residents are helped with their daily living needs like bathing, eating, and recreation.

However, memory care facilities also have alarmed doors, secured elevators, and enclosed outdoor spaces. The idea is to preserve a resident’s need for social interaction while preventing him from wandering away from the facility.

Six in 10 people with dementia will wander. In the majority of cases, the person will have a destination in mind, even if that place no longer exists. The person may feel inexplicably compelled to return to their childhood home hundreds of miles away. Or, they may believe they need to go to work.

Some memory care facilities ask their residents to wear tracking bracelets equipped with GPS for better monitoring.

When to Select a Memory Care Facility

The decision to move an elderly relative out of their home into a care facility is not an easy one. It depends primarily on how severe dementia symptoms are.

Alzheimer’s Disease has three stages, early, middle, and late. Many people can remain in their homes for years during the early stages. In this stage, people may experience mild memory loss and confusion. They may forget someone’s name or lose their handbag from time to time.

When the disease progresses to the middle stage, the person will need help. He may still be able to live at home for a time but will require assistance. Patients in the middle stage may become angry or withdrawn. They can get lost while running errands and forget how to get home.

If your loved one is in the early or middle stage of dementia, it’s time to start thinking about a memory care facility. You might ask yourself these questions:

  • Can my loved one be left alone safely?
  • How much supervision does she need?
  • Can she bathe and dress herself?
  • Is she prone to angry outbursts and violent behavior?
  • Has she wandered away from home?
  • Is she afraid to be home?

If your loved one needs more care than you or a home health care aid can provide, it may be time to consider a memory care facility.

Choosing the Right Memory Care Facility

It can feel overwhelming to begin the search for an appropriate facility. Often the best place to start is with friends and relatives who have placed a loved one in a similar facility. Ask for recommendations and resources.

AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association offer an online search tool called the Community Resource Finder. You select the type of facility you’re looking for and type in your zip code.

Once you’ve compiled a list, the next step is to visit the place in person if possible. Try to visit more than once and during off-hours. Ask if you can stop by in the evening to observe both the staffing levels and the residents’ demeanor.

During your visit, pay attention to both what you can see and what you can smell. Bad odors may indicate the facility isn’t being cleaned regularly, or the residents aren’t receiving help with their hygiene.

Ask about the training that the staff receives. Is it annual training? Does everyone go through it or just select staff members?

Take a look at the availability of recreational activities like games, arts and crafts, and music. Observe how the residents participate. Do they look comfortable?

Always ask about safety measures and request to see them for yourself. Some important ones to look for are:

  • Alarms on the doors
  • Enclosed spaces outside
  • Visitor check-in procedures
  • Onsite medical care

Finally, ask about meals and how the nutritional needs of the residents are met. it’s a good idea to visit during mealtime, so you can observe how the staff helps the residents who can’t feed themselves.

The Cost

Memory care is expensive, more so than traditional assisted living care. The average cost for a private room in a memory care facility is $5,745 a month.

Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care, including memory care. It will pay for a portion of the medical costs but not the daily living services.

Your options are limited to private pay (out of pocket), long-term care insurance, or Medicaid. Long-term care insurance needs to be secured well before your loved one needs it. And Medicaid is limited to low-income seniors.

Support for the Family

Caring for someone with dementia can be stressful. Seek out support groups where you can talk with others in the same situation. Check with your friends, church members, and community groups to find one in your area.

We hope this article has answered your questions about finding a memory care facility. Please check out our blog for more health and wellness information.