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Memory Care

Memory care facilities provide around-the-clock specialized care for people with memory loss. Staff at these facilities receive regular training to help prevent and minimize difficult dementia behaviors.

Memory care offers a safe and structured environment with set routines that aim to lower stress for patients. Employees provide meals and help residents with personal care tasks, such as dressing and bathing. Parts of this care are similar to care at an assisted living facility, but memory care staff are also specially trained to deal with the unique issues that often arise as a result of dementia or Alzheimer's. They check in with residents more frequently and provide extra structure and support as needed to help them navigate their day.

Memory care communities are becoming increasingly important as dementia becomes more prevalent. The staff works continually to help residents with memory loss manage their symptoms, including stress and anxiety, agitation, and behavioral changes. Each facility offers professional activities, therapies and programs to help residents maintain their quality of life.

Some families may choose to have 24-hour memory care at home, and while that can be beneficial, it does not prevent the emotional burden and stress of the family members. Caregivers are at risk for health problems and decreased quality of life, and they may experience burnout over time. In this instance, specialized nurses can provide psychological support and advice for families and caregivers. It is important to remember that a carer’s journey is difficult, and the stress of living with a person with dementia can have an effect on that person's physical health too. Memory care offers essential support for caregivers while providing exceptional care for people with memory loss.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is included in memory care?
Memory care facilities offer around-the-clock healthcare to seniors with memory loss. In memory care, staff receive personal and specialized training in caring for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Residents in these facilities are encouraged to live as independently as possible while receiving assistance as needed. The staff coordinates the care of memory care residents, assessing their needs and coordinating activities according to their abilities.

Many memory care facilities also coordinate care with outside healthcare providers, such as primary care physicians, podiatrists, cardiologists and dentists, to help residents maintain a high level of independence while staying healthy.

Staff at these facilities develop deep relationships with residents and family members to get a holistic understanding of the person who will receive care. This approach allows them to develop a customized dementia care plan that better meets the resident's unique needs and supports their health and emotional well-being.

Certain types of dementia worsen over time, often leaving elderly adults unable to live independently and causing tremendous stress and burden to families and caregivers. Someone with advanced dementia needs 24-hour supervised care in a secure environment.

Memory care facilities are specifically outfitted to reduce confusion and disorientation for residents. Thoughtful design elements, such as clearly identified spaces, personalized apartments, proper lighting, and reduced background noise, promote a sense of safety, calm, and familiarity that is necessary for residents to relax and feel at home.

Because dementia and Alzheimer's patients can wander, putting themselves at risk for injury or death, memory care facilities are designed to prevent this. Caregivers generally lock exterior doors and use keypads or doorbells to help monitor who enters and leaves the building. Gardens and courtyards are often enclosed with fences to allow residents to safely spend time outdoors.

In later stages of the disease, many people have difficulty performing simple activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and using the toilet. Disorientation, confusion, and sometimes aggression also tend to get worse, affecting seniors with dementia and those around them. Staff members who work in memory care programs are trained to manage dementia symptoms, including difficult and combative behaviors, in a kind, compassionate manner using specific dementia care techniques. When a non-drug approach to dementia care and behavior management is emphasized, it can reduce the need for antipsychotic medication.

Memory care communities are often a part of a larger senior living community that offers other levels of care. For example, many assisted living facilities have a separate wing dedicated to memory care. In other cases, memory care facilities are standalone communities exclusively for residents with memory loss.

What is the difference between nursing care and memory care?
Skilled nursing facilities differ from memory care units. Both nursing homes and memory care facilities combine room and board with healthcare and personal care. Nursing homes are for people who cannot live at home because of medical needs, while memory care facilities specialize in the needs of people with memory loss.

While nursing homes don’t offer specific care for people with dementia, memory care facilities are specifically designed to help people with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. Memory care is also known as “assisted living with memory care,” “dementia care,” or “Alzheimer’s care.”

Nursing homes generally have an available activity program, but such programs might not be right for someone needing memory care. Classic movie nights or cooking classes, for example, would be entertaining for most adults, but someone with dementia would find them frustrating. Because sticking to routines is more important in memory care, scheduling and structure are emphasized.

What is the role of a dementia nurse?
A dementia nurse’s role requires both experience and patience. It also requires special training to take care of a dementia patient’s basic needs. A specialist nurse working in memory care must be very familiar with each patient’s specific behavior, habits and medical needs. Knowing a patient well allows the nurse to deal with behavioral patterns effectively while still making sure the patient doesn’t feel a loss of control. Nurses can get to know a patient by spending time to build a rapport, as well as by carefully reading reports and speaking with the patient’s friends and family.

Another part of the job for a dementia nurse is to keep a record of the patient’s condition. This record helps the doctor and medical teams create a care plan. A nurse might also be part of the care team that assesses a patient at home and advises the family on ways to improve health and quality of life.

What qualifications do I need to be a dementia nurse?
To become a specialist dementia nurse, you should hold a registered mental health nursing qualification. You will also need additional post-registration training in the condition. You will also ideally have two years experience working with people with dementia.

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