April 4, 2022
Is It Time to Consider Memory Care for Your Loved One?Memory Care
You see your loved one struggling with their cognitive health or beginning to show increased signs of changing cognition, and you worry: Can I provide the care they truly require? You’re on constant alert about their safety and simultaneously planning for whatever comes next as they face new or worsening memory challenges. And if you’re like so many others in this boat, the experience is taking a toll on both you and your loved one.
So often, the unique challenges associated with memory loss are greater than a caring family member or loved one can realistically and safely provide. That’s why many begin to consider the option of a specialized memory care community, weighing whether this solution is the right one to help their loved one navigate current and future challenges.
But for lots of families, the question remains: How do I know when it’s time? In other words: What are the signs that my loved one requires the kind of attention and critical care that a dedicated memory care community can best provide? This is a highly common and completely understandable concern. Because making the connection between your loved one’s memory decline and their current need for specialized care isn’t always easy or obvious.
To support families in managing this process with greater clarity, dignity, and peace of mind, we’re highlighting a valuable list of the most common signs that caregivers can lean on to help make such an important determination. To evaluate whether now’s the time to start thinking about memory care for the senior in your life, start by asking the following questions.
Has my loved one received an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis?
This is usually the clearest signal that your loved one requires a level of memory care that you may not be able to provide on your own. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than five million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s, and that number is expected to climb as the population of the U.S. ages. So if the senior in your life has recently received this diagnosis, take comfort in knowing they’re not alone.
As the need for specialized care in this area increases, memory care communities are becoming more prevalent. The best ones are designed with the specific needs of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related illnesses in mind. They partner with medical and rehabilitation providers and engage a team of staff who are expertly trained to help seniors and their families manage their memory challenges, maintain health and safety, and live a full and engaged life.
Is my loved one failing to take medications exactly as prescribed?
Because the repercussions of mismanaging one’s medications can be dangerous, if not deadly, this process should be taken very seriously. Unfortunately, medication management for a senior with memory decline can be particularly difficult. Even without the added stress of memory loss, many seniors struggle to keep all of their medications on track. Given different types of medications and dosage instructions, maintaining a strict routine can be tricky.
If you’re seeing that your loved one is not capable of staying on top of their medications or they’re misusing them in any way—and you simply can’t keep up with monitoring it all, it’s critical to seek help. Specialized memory care communities are uniquely equipped to manage and administer medications consistently. Staff are also trained to monitor behaviors and changes in health that may signal the need for alterations to current medication types and dosages.
Is my loved one struggling to maintain proper nutrition?
Many seniors faced with memory decline begin to show signs that they’re not taking care of their daily nutritional needs. The task of preparing and consuming meals can get overlooked or become too difficult a cognitive activity to follow through.
Nutrition is essential to the health of aging seniors, so missed meals or a lack of proper dietary needs can bring about serious concerns. Memory care communities build this vital aspect into their care offerings, ensuring that residents consume adequate, timely, and nutritious meals according to individual dietary needs. Doing so is an essential component of maintaining both physical and mental health. Not to mention the increased health benefits of eating with other people!
Does my loved one have difficulty showering and maintaining personal hygiene?
A loved one who is not making bathing and hygiene activities an ongoing and consistent effort may require a greater level of care than they’re currently receiving. Sometimes there’s more than just the memory issues impacting the routine. Tasks like these can actually become too physically demanding for a loved one to manage on their own.
If this is the case, it could be a sign that more support and specialized care are required. Staff at memory care communities are specially trained to provide seniors with the assistance they need to carry out these types of daily living routines, from showering and brushing teeth to getting dressed or managing related tasks—all with the dignity and respect your loved one deserves.
Is my loved one becoming increasingly isolated?
Seniors suffering from cognitive decline may begin to show signs of lost interest in family and friends. Some choose to avoid social occasions and keep to themselves out of fear of becoming easily confused. But self-isolation leads to a lack of mental and emotional stimulation, which is highly detrimental to the health of an aging loved one.
In a specialized memory care community, residents are encouraged to engage with other residents and staff, participate in activities, take advantage of socialization opportunities and find what brings them joy. There’s a focus on taking unique approaches to entertainment and socialization for people experiencing memory loss, including programs like music therapy, memory games, art classes, and exercise. These touchpoints create moments of real meaning that engage residents emotionally, physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually.
Is my loved one exhibiting more and more agitation?
Frustration is a natural, common, and completely understandable aspect of experiencing memory loss. The strain it puts on a senior’s emotions can be palpable. So you may be seeing your loved one act out and show signs of increasing agitation, even toward the people who love and care for them.
It takes a very specialized skill set to approach this agitation with understanding and diffuse escalating expressions of aggression. To help residents deal with immense frustration and anger, memory care staff are trained to redirect these thoughts, emotions, and actions. Specialized communities also provide the kind of support and environment that protects residents from putting themselves in danger in response to overwhelming emotions.
Is my loved one experiencing sundowning symptoms?
With the progression of Alzheimer’s or dementia, changes start to unfold in the brain that causes disruption to one’s usual cognitive functions. This commonly results in symptoms such as sleeping difficulties, nighttime wandering, daytime napping, and a particular type of agitation occurring late afternoon or early evening, which is referred to as “sundowning.”
These kinds of disruptions to sleeping patterns and circadian rhythms manifest stress and can become increasingly difficult for a senior and their caregiver to manage. In many cases, this is a surefire sign that your loved one is in need of specialized care in a dedicated living environment.
Does my loved one tend to wander?
One of the most frightening symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is a person’s sudden or eventual inability to recognize familiar places and faces. It’s highly common for someone suffering from memory decline to wander, become lost, or get confused about their location, and this sense of unfamiliarity can happen at any stage of the disease.
Quality memory care communities fully understand this tendency and are equipped to manage it. They are often designed to eliminate obstacles and make it easier for seniors to move about. They also implement monitoring procedures and around-the-clock supervision, in addition to securing doors with a wander-protection system.
As you answer the questions above, you may find that your loved one is experiencing one or more of the symptoms mentioned. If that is the case, and it’s to the extent that their physical, mental, or emotional health is suffering, there’s a good chance it’s time to consider specialized memory care to meet their needs. While this can be a difficult reality to face, getting your loved one the support to live a safer, more fulfilling life also brings immense peace of mind.