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Why Memory Care is the Fastest Growing Segment of Senior Care

By Dana LarsenMay 11, 2012
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Making the decision to put a loved one in a memory care community can be heart-wrenching. But, capturing the essence of what memory care offers Alzheimer’s disease and dementia sufferers is what’s important to note. Memory care offers more than assisted living, it offers seniors an improved quality of life.

Recently, more than 10 senior housing groups announced plans to build new developments or renovate existing communities in April, including the LaSalle Group (Constant Care Management), Innovative Senior Living, Lifespace Communities, Pathway Senior Living and Bloomfield Senior Living. As waiting lists for memory care programs grow exponentially each year, a significant portion of these new building projects are dedicated to memory care units. Learn more about how their designs meet the behavior needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

What Makes Memory Care So Unique?

Memory care as a specialized treatment option for seniors is more expensive than traditional assisted living as it offers specific services and features, catered to those who suffer from dementia.

Memory care treatment programs often feature:

  • A secure environment to reduce elopement, while allowing healthy wandering
  • A low staff-to-resident ratio
  • Sensory-based programming
  • Color-coded hallways and design features to facilitate easy navigation and reduce anxiety
  • The ability to accommodate residents in the early, middle and late stages of the disease

Senior living companies including Belmont Village, Brookdale and Silverado Senior Living have been expanding their memory care housing as these senior care providers need to meet the demands of an aging population.

Through effective services, treatments and catered-patient environments designed by experts in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, communities with memory care programs report the following improvements in resident quality-of-life factors:

  • Reduction in medication and negative medication side effects
  • Decreased falls and injuries
  • Fewer emergency room visits
  • Fewer incidents involving violent behaviors
  • Increased nutrition and reduction in vitamin deficiencies
  • Increased independence and social interaction
  • Increased happiness as residents are functioning at a higher level
  • Improved or maintained mental functioning in half to three fourths of residents over a six month time period

Michelle Egerer, Regional Vice President at Silverado Senior Living, feels passionate about the services her company offers not only to seniors, but also to their families. “What Silverado wants to do is change the world in the way in which memory care services are provided to those who suffer from various memory care impairments. We want to give life to residents — to be able to give families a peace of mind and understanding that there is a life for their loved one with the special care and special services Silverado provides.

Kelly Scott, Vice President of Program Development and Innovation at Brookdale Senior Living, adds:“Caregivers who are doing their research recognize that memory care is evolving as senior living providers are starting to offer more advanced memory care programming that addresses each stage of the disease and personalizes care for each individual. Communities that provide quality programming also include the family prominently in the care — by involving them in the development of the care plan, and by offering them education, support and resources on an ongoing basis.” Kelly also says that Emeritus’ ability to care for an individual with Alzheimer’s disease begins with forming a strong partnership with the family. “We are committed to providing families and caregivers with information and practical tips to help them navigate the various challenges that are common when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.”

Beverly Sanborn, Vice President of Program Development at Belmont Village Senior Living, discusses why her company is expanding their dementia care and memory care housing and services. “The memory care programming is moving from the leisure model to the therapeutic model. By offering more than just enjoyment and socializing — by also including goals for the wide-range of programs you offer that are both measurable and track-able, an improved level-of-care is being seen.” Beverly continues to discuss how memory care has much to offer seniors and their families as far as catered programs, specialists and even buildings designed to deal with wandering and memory care impairment. “In a full-scale memory care program, the goal is for the resident to function at the highest possible level and to maintain that level for as long as possible. If you provide mental, physical and nutritional health at optimal level, you should be able to improve mental acuity for at least a six month period. This is very positive for the sense of well-being for the resident, as well as, being gratifying for the family.”

A Family’s Role in Memory Care

Once families decide on a memory care community for their loved one, the memory care community will work with them to understand the following things about the new resident:

  1. Who they are.
  2. What they’ve experienced in their life.
  3. What has brought them a sense of purpose and success.

The memory care communities are able to work to bring the dementia sufferers’ interests, experiences and hobbies to life through their individualized programs. According to Scott, “It is through a strong partnership with the families that we are able to create days full of meaning and purpose for each individual.”

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Learning More About Memory Care

Dealing with dementia can be challenging for any family. According to Dan Willis, Senior Vice President of Partner Services for A Place for Mom, “Helping caregivers better understand the reasons for dementia sufferers’ problem behaviors and, thereby, how to more effectively deal with those behaviors is what’s important. The key to successful caregiving is to not focus on the losses of the disease, but rather on the individual’s remaining capabilities.” Luckily today there are capable, knowledgeable memory care communities to help families and their loved ones make choices to improve quality of life.

Learn more about memory care and read some common questions and answers about Alzheimer’s from expert, Megan Carnarius — a sought-after national speaker on Alzheimer’s.

Have you or a loved one had an experience with memory care? What have you noticed about its growth? We’d like to hear your story in the comments below.

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Dana Larsen