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Memory Care Management: Patient Care and Needs Management

By Celia SearlesMarch 31, 2022
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One of the main questions families have when their loved one needs memory care is, “How personalized will my relative’s care be?” How do dementia caregivers make sure to meet a patient’s individualized and ever-changing needs? With the right information and resources, families can spend less time deciphering the nuances of memory care management and more time with the people they love.

In this article:

What is memory care management at the patient level?

Memory care management on the patient level addresses the specialized needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. Memory care is typically offered either in a stand-alone community or in a specialized unit within a larger community that also provides assisted living or rehabilitation services. A person-centered care philosophy can be the basis of a best-in-class community’s memory care management structure.

A key goal of most senior living communities is to assist residents in their activities of daily living (ADLs), and memory care is no different. Just because memory care residents may require more unique behavioral assistance, the goal at the end of the day is the same: Empower residents to feel as independent as possible while also feeling supported, safe, and emotionally satisfied.

How does memory care management start at the person?

Residents at memory care facilities benefit from several person-centered memory care management techniques, including dementia care mapping (DCM) methods. These methods can be used by caregivers to get to know residents’ histories, personalities, and specific needs quickly and effectively. Memory care patients have different daily challenges than seniors who aren’t experiencing cognitive decline, so specialized care and advanced training in observation are necessary for nurses and caregivers in these communities.

Person-centered care

Person-centered care hinges on a personal relationship between the resident and their caregivers. Person-centered care makes time for caregivers to learn residents’ backstories, preferences, notable life experiences, and more. Both caregivers and residents thrive when personhood and individuality are centered — caregivers see their work having a greater impact, and residents feel safer, freer, and more respected.

Person-centered care is entirely customizable based on the preferences and individual needs of residents. For example, communities with person-centered programming may offer several different meal times to accommodate residents’ individual schedules, or additional activities to fit all tastes. While scheduling extended meal times and more activities might challenge a community’s staff more, a best-in-class memory care program will adequately train its staff for the challenges. Expect a top-quality community’s staff to be prepared and ready for the effort required.

Dementia care mapping

Dementia care mapping is one of the primary techniques used to implement high-quality person-centered care in memory care facilities. DCM involves skilled observation of the person with dementia as they go about their daily life, all in an attempt to understand their experience, viewpoint, and specific needs. Memory care communities use DCM to help develop a senior care plan — a tool caregivers can use to ensure seniors receive the appropriate medical, social, and emotional care.

Once the person with dementia has been properly observed, caregivers note their findings and create a care plan with interventions and goals specific to the individual. By carefully observing a resident’s quirks, habits, preferences, and history, caregivers are able to provide more holistic care that benefits the mind, body, and spirit.

Memory care facilities and caregivers that practice person-centered care and dementia care mapping with their patients report lower levels of agitation and distress in residents with dementia, according to a comprehensive review in the journal Lancet Neurology. These psychology-based techniques are the building blocks of an effective care plan and can be used as the basis of many other specific care approaches.

What do memory care patient goals and interventions look like?

Memory care patient goals focus on promoting independence and life satisfaction. Patients, loved ones, and professional caregivers work together to outline realistic goals using proven personal intervention techniques cataloged in the patient’s individualized care plans. When fulfilled, these goals can improve physical and emotional well-being while slowing cognitive decline. Different memory care management techniques at the patient level help achieve desired results.

Person-centered interventions help residents meet their goals

Person-centered intervention techniques give the caregiver individualized tools to help alleviate a patient’s stress, pain, depression, or other negative feelings. Effective interventions vary from person to person, and may include:

  • Playing a patient’s favorite song to improve their mood
  • Showing a picture of something they enjoy, like a garden or beach scene
  • Smelling a familiar perfume to reduce agitation

The intervention technique should always be tailored to an individual’s specific needs. For example, sundown syndrome may be an issue for one patient. If a caregiver turns on a specific TV show in the evening, symptoms fade. The TV show is the intervention in this case, which accomplishes the goal of alleviating anxiety during sundown.

What does a nursing care plan look like in memory care?

A nursing care plan is a set of guidelines and action items caregivers and medical professionals follow when providing care to a specific resident. This plan is uniquely designed to meet individual needs previously identified during the dementia care mapping process. Great memory care communities start their resident relationships with a nursing care plan, and it serves as a roadmap that all caregivers follow.

A nursing care plan typically includes details about:

  • Meals, including the timing of meals and flavor preferences. Doctors may make certain dietary recommendations, depending on the needs of a resident.
  • Medication, which may be necessary for some residents but not all. Close monitoring of side effects and effectiveness is necessary for any resident on medication.
  • Assistance with ADLs, which can vary greatly depending on the stage of dementia and the physical needs of residents. These needs are often specific — one resident may need help dressing but be able to confidently brush their own teeth.
  • Person-centered needs, like wanting a specific drink each afternoon, needing a certain TV show to fall asleep, or liking pink nail polish.

Medication for memory care treatment

Some doctors may suggest medication as a supplemental way to treat dementia symptoms. While there are many medications available, each individual’s treatment plan will be unique. Make sure to speak with your loved one’s doctors and caregivers about medication management, side effects, and any possible questions or concerns.

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Non-pharmaceutical memory care treatments

Memory care communities also offer a variety of non-pharmaceutical care treatments that can more safely ease some of the symptoms of dementia. These treatment options can be as simple as reminiscence therapies to help residents remember significant songs, events, or movies from their lives, or as complex as specific bathing or de-escalation therapies.

Some treatments may require extra training for caregivers, but many basic non-pharmaceutical treatments employ the foundations of person-centered care — which, at its core, simply requires empathy, a commitment to care, and an open mind.

Where can I learn more about what makes for great memory care?

Memory care facilities are made up of many moving parts. Best-in-class memory care should be able to smoothly integrate your loved one, on their own terms, into the life of the facility. To learn more about memory care, see these additional A Place for Mom resources:

A Place for Mom is committed to being a resource for families through every step of the senior care process. Take advantage of these free services and speak to a Senior Living Advisor today to find the right memory care community for your loved one.


Chenoweth, L., King, M.T., Jeon, Y.H., Brodaty, H., Stein-Parbury, J., Norman, R., Haas, M., & Luscombe, G. (2009, March 12). Caring for aged dementia care resident study (CADRES) of person-centered care, dementia-care mapping, and usual care in dementia: a cluster-randomised trial.The Lancet: Neurology

Fazio, S., Pace, D., Flinner, J., & Kallmyer, B., (2018, January 18). The fundamentals of person-centered care for individuals with dementiaThe Gerontological Society of America

Surr, C. A., Griffiths, A. W., & Kelley, R. (2018, January 26). Implementing Dementia Care Mapping as a practice development tool in dementia care services: a systematic reviewClinical Interventions in Aging.

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal, or financial advice or to create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom and the reader. Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter, and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site. Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

Celia Searles

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