Why Specialized Memory Care Can Be the Perfect Fit for Seniors Living With Dementia

Why Specialized Memory Care Can Be the Perfect Fit for Seniors Living With Dementia

Senior living

If you love someone with dementia who needs some extra care, you may be on a mission to find them the highest quality support possible. After doing your research, you may well join countless family caregivers in concluding that specialized memory care is hands-down the best alternative.

Unlike nursing homes or assisting living places, which offer a memory care wing at best, specialized communities cater to the specific needs of people with dementia–an incredibly complex condition with effects that can extend far beyond memory loss. Seniors with advanced dementia sometimes have problems walking or eating, get easily frustrated or agitated, or experience depression. Memory care employees receive specialized training so they can meet the diverse physical, emotional, and intellectual needs of these residents. In contrast, the staff of a multi-care place are trained in multiple areas and are expected to care for residents with a variety of health issues.

Another bonus is the person-centered care offered by memory care communities. Staff who follow this philosophy make it a point to treat people with dementia with dignity and respect and provide opportunities for them to engage in meaningful conversations and relationships. They also conduct detailed assessments to understand the history, interests, values and preferences of each resident, and thus design a care plan that meets their individual needs. Staff also tend to check in with residents more frequently and provide extra structure and support.

Activities are another area where memory care communities stand out. Sunshine Retirement Living, for example, designs its memory care activities based on relevant research in cognitive impairment. (Activities include exercise programs, cultural outings, music therapy, aromatherapy or other sensory therapies, and virtual reality therapy).

Physical Details Make a Difference

Building design also plays a role in distinguishing memory care communities from multi-care facilities. Buildings and landscaping on a memory care campus are designed to promote a safe and easy-to-navigate environment. Research shows that certain furniture placements and layouts can alleviate anxiety and improve familiarity for residents with memory impairment. You may not have realized this, but the use of color and contrast can also help orient residents. For instance, contrasting paint colors can help people with dementia distinguish between vertical and horizontal surfaces. (Speaking of color, Sunshine’s memory care communities serve meals on brightly colored plates to encourage residents to eat more and avoid weight loss.) In addition, memory care staff make it a priority to create a calm and soothing environment–too much noise or stimuli can increase anxiety and agitation in those living with dementia. Walls may even be free of mirrors, as people with memory impairment may become disoriented after seeing their reflection.

Of course, safety is another hallmark of memory care communities. Individual apartments feature safety mechanisms on stoves and ovens, and elevation changes are avoided to help reduce fall risk. The buildings are also designed to minimize wandering with exits requiring a special code. This concern about wandering also extends to the grounds. At Sunshine’s memory care communities secured walking paths and enclosed gardens encourage residents to walk outdoors without getting lost. (Residents can also wear location-based pendants to provide an extra sense of security for families.)

If you’d like to learn more about specialized care, consider booking a tour so you can see first-hand why a memory care community may make more sense than the one-size-fits-all facility.

About the Author

Katherine O’Brien is a Toronto-based health writer who specializes in writing about healthy aging and dementia. She understands firsthand the experience of being a dementia caregiver. Have a question or story idea for Katherine? Email us here.