A memory care unit is a type of assisted living facility that caters to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Alzheimer’s and dementia are conditions that effect memory. There are various levels and stages of these conditions, so patients may need varying levels of care, assistance, and supervision. It is estimated that about five million patients suffer from Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia.
Often a patient will show worsening signs of forgetfulness that will alert a family member to the possibility of dementia or Alzheimer’s. If the patient is forgetting how to do things that are necessary for daily life, or causing dangerous situations due to forgetfulness, a doctor should be consulted. In mild cases, the patient may be able to continue living at home with some assistance from a family member or a visiting nurse. Alzheimer’s and dementia are conditions that may be treated and show improvement, but will never entirely go away.
When to Seek Assistance from a Memory Care Unit
If family members or loved ones are caring for a patient with Alzheimer’s, it may not be immediately obvious when the patient’s condition has worsened to the point of requiring assistance such as can be provided by a memory care unit. Often the symptoms of the condition gradually worsen over time. This can cause the person or people that are caring for the patient to miss warning signs.
Alzheimer’s signs to watch out for:
- Missing medications due to forgetfulness; forgetting to set timers, alarms, or reminders
- Incidents with household appliances, such as forgetting to shut them off, unplug them, or walking away while appliance is still running
- Increasing dependence to complete daily tasks such as dressing, bathing, and using restroom
- Forgetting personal information such as name, phone number, and address
- Getting lost or having trouble remembering where home is when out
If a patient begins to show these signs of worsening dementia, a physician should be consulted about utilizing a memory care unit or other options for assistance in caring for the patient. Many people that have been providing for a loved one that is affected by dementia feel a sense of guilt when discussing these types of options, but it is necessary in many cases to provide a safe environment with the type of medical care that the patient requires for comfortable living. Most loved ones do not realistically have the time and medical skills to watch and care for a patient with severe or worsening dementia.
Types of Memory Care Units
Since there are different stages of dementia, patients may require more or less supervision and medical attention. All memory care units have strict state requirements that dictate staffing and training requirements. Each state has different requirements, and these are available to the public. Even mild cases of dementia require a certain level of supervision, so these guidelines are in place to ensure that memory care units are providing the proper care.
Assisted Living Facility
If a patient is diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, it may become necessary for family members to seek the assistance provided at an assisted living facility, a type of Memory Care Unit. The living spaces at an assisted living facility are set up as efficiency apartments. These are ideal for couples or relatives that wish to remain living together, but require assistance due to health issues.
Assisted living facilities often provide activities, dining, rehabilitation programs, and medication assistance. There is around the clock staff available to help patients with any tasks that require assistance, or any medical needs. These types of facilities provide the patients with a much greater amount of freedom than most memory care units, while still providing the care necessary. Staff in most assisted living facilities is trained to be respectful and compassionate when redirecting or focusing a patient that has become confused.
If a patient has reached a point in which they need to be supervised at all times, a nursing home is a type of memory care unit that can provide that type of care.
A patient may require the assistance provided by a nursing home if:
- All daily tasks are beyond the patient’s ability
- The patient repeatedly attempts to leave home or memory care unit
- The patient shows aggression towards others
Nursing homes maintain security measures such as keeping all doors that lead out of the area designated for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients locked. Wandering incidents are a leading cause of harm for these patients. Staff requirements for nursing homes are higher than for other types of memory care units. Nursing homes often provide psychiatry services and therapy to slow the deterioration of cognitive function.
Adult day Care
A newer type of memory care unit, adult day care is a service for those suffering from dementia. The facility provides the same care that a nursing home would provide, and the primary care giver of the dementia patient can go to work or run errands. This allows family members to care for the patient primarily at home, but provides the peace of mind that the patient will be safe when the care giver goes to work or leaves the house. This service is a much less costly option than assisted living facilities or nursing homes, and allows the patient to stay in a more comfortable environment with family.
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“What is Memory Care and How Much Should it Cost?.” Assisted Living Today. Assisted Living Today, n.d. Web. 7 Sep 2013. <http://assistedlivingtoday.com/p/memory-care/>.