Your Complete Guide to Memory Care
It may start gradually, for example, your parent may forget to pay bills.
But many of us have been there, right? Who hasn’t occasionally forgotten to pay a bill?
But the forgetfulness and memory lapses slowly continue:
- Your loved one may forget where they live
- Familiar names and addresses may slip their mind
- They fail to keep their house clean or in some type of order
- Perhaps they’ve even become withdrawn or irritated
And then, an event happens that you can’t ignore: Your loved one forgot to turn off the stove.
These are all signs that your loved one needs the care and safety of memory care. But even if you know they need memory care, this opens the door to even more questions:
- What exactly is memory care?
- When should my parent or loved one go to memory care?
- What happens in a memory care unit?
- How can I tell the differences between dementia and simple forgetfulness?
We understand that this time in your life is stressful and often confusing. You may be overwhelmed with options, and the internet doesn’t always provide advice that is reliable.
That’s why we’ve answered your questions about memory care in this comprehensive, useful guide that provides everything you need to know, from when to begin memory care to what to look for in a memory care facility.
It is our hope that this guide will provide you with the knowledge, confidence and assurance you need to know you’re making the right decision.
What Is Memory Care?
Memory care is a specialized form of care geared to help those who have Alzheimer’s or other dementias. We understand that those with these conditions have very specific and unique needs, and that’s why our dedicated memory care centers were created at Cedar Cove.
In memory care, those you love are surrounded by dedicated and certified caregivers who offer an environment that is secure, yet stimulating.
What Makes Memory Care Different From Assisted Living?
At first glance, there are several similarities.
Both offer help and assistance with the goal for your loved one to retain as much independence as is safely possible, for as long as possible.
Both may also offer a wide variety of activities and both free residents from the hassle of home maintenance and daily chores.
But there are also some key differences.
Resident safety is always a top priority for both assisted living and memory care. Those with Alzheimer’s and memory issues may be prone to wander or get lost easily – even if they are in familiar environments.
Specialized staff with extensive training work in memory care facilities, and assist residents in developing and maintaining cognitive function through a variety of activities. This is a critical component of memory care.
How Does Memory Care Keep My Loved One Safe?
First, our memory care unit is in a secure part of our community. It is monitored by employees, and doors are locked to ensure a resident doesn’t wander away from the unit.
But security is about more than merely keeping your loved one in one place. Engaging activities that direct their attention to helping develop tasks that engage their mind and focus them on everyday activities.
By occupying their mind, there is less likelihood that they will become anxious or agitated.
In addition, another advantage of memory care is that there is a better staff to patient ratio. This means that there are more staff members available to help take care of your loved one’s needs.
Who Can Benefit From Memory Care?
Those who can benefit from memory care include those who have Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Later in this paper, we’ll take a quick look at some of the facts about Alzheimer’s and how it affects the body. But first, let’s explore more about memory care and how it can benefit both you and your loved one.
Memory care is targeted to help those who have Alzheimer’s disease, as well as mid-to-late stage dementias. By providing these residents with 24-hour supervision, a safe environment is created where they can thrive.
Family members also benefit from memory care—this service alleviates them from the stress and strain of caregiving for someone who has extensive needs.
How to Know When It’s Time for Memory Care
At the beginning, we outlined some of the signs that it may be time for your loved one to enter a memory care community. We’ve gathered all those signs and have listed them here for your convenience.
Your loved one is ready for memory care if:
- You don’t feel they are safe by themselves.
- They have consistent memory loss—particularly if they are forgetting familiar things, such as how to get to the grocery store.
- They exercise consistently poor judgment.
- They do not practice daily hygiene.
- It takes them much longer to complete everyday living tasks, such as brushing their teeth or getting dressed.
- They constantly repeat questions.
- They have difficulty managing their money.
- They wander or get lost—particularly in familiar settings.
- They experience personality changes—they may become more irritable or moody. They may even become aggressive.
- They are more anxious.
We’d like to point out the key to determining if these issues are a problem is consistency. Everyone goes through periods of anxiety, and everyone is forgetful now and then. But if these issues become consistent problems that are gradually getting worse, or if they are making it difficult for your loved one to complete the tasks of everyday living, then it’s time to look for a memory care facility.
What Happens in a Memory Care Unit?
Have you ever wondered what happens in one of these units? We’ll take a quick look and discover the activities that occur there.
What Goes on Inside a Memory Care Unit
The goal of memory care units is to provide an environment that is safe, yet also stimulating to help “exercise the minds” of the residents.
Studies have shown that those with dementia who participate in these stimulating activities do much better at tasks of daily living than those who do not.
Close supervision is also needed because, in its more advanced stages, Alzheimer’s can affect the ability to walk and move, which places these residents at greater risk of falls. Others with dementia may be prone to wander and get lost, even if the surroundings are familiar.
Following are some activities you might observe:
Studies have demonstrated how effective music therapy is at relieving stress, reducing depression, calming agitation and reducing anxiety.
But did you realize that these musical reminiscences are usually left undamaged from Alzheimer’s disease?
According to information from the Mayo Clinic, the areas of the brain that are closely linked to musical memory are generally intact despite having dementia.
This means that playing music that reminds the residents of their youth can have a wonderful effect on them, even going so far as to transform their outlook. Likewise, singing is another activity that provides positive results.
Those in a memory care unit may not remember or be able to process the rules associated with complicated card games. However, residents can be given a deck of cards to separate into suits: hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs. This provides stimulation for the mind and helps residents cognitively.
Some residents benefit from being reminded about their previous profession. One simple way to do this is to get a shoebox and fill it with items related to their previous occupation. For example, someone who was a carpenter may have a small piece of wood in their box, while someone who was a chef may have a recipe card.
Look at Photographs
Those with dementia may not recognize the people in their family photographs, but viewing these pictures can still have a positive impact by creating a story.
Matching and Sorting Games
Sensory stimulation can be easily achieved through matching games where pictures or shapes are combined. It’s also a great exercise for thinking skills.
What Should You Look for in a Memory Care Facility?
There are several things you should look for when deciding upon a facility. Ask yourself:
- Is the community secure?
- Are there safeguards in place to prevent wandering?
- Does the staff have extensive training in working with those with dementias?
- Does the staff maintain good communication with family members?
- Are the residents engaged in meaningful activities?
But most importantly, we believe you should take a close look at the residents of the community. Do they seem happy? Are they in an environment where they feel like family?
Does Insurance or Medicare Pay for Memory Care?
The world of health insurance and Medicare can be confusing. If someone you love needs to transition into memory care living, you’re probably wondering if insurance or Medicare will pay for it.
While every case is different—and you should check with your representatives to confirm coverage—we’re happy to provide this basic overview of what to expect Medicare or your insurance to pay for memory care.
Will Medicare Pay for Memory Care?
Medicare will not cover long-term care that is primarily custodial, like that seen in a Memory Care Center.
But it will cover planning services for those who have received a recent diagnosis of dementia.
What are Planning Services?
These enable you to learn about clinical trials, community services and medical as well as non-medical options to help treat the condition.
What Will Medicare Cover?
Medicare will cover inpatient hospital care, and in addition, it can cover some physician fees or medical items for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias – provided they are 65 or older.
When Can I Get Medicare?
This federal health insurance is for those who are 65 or older and are getting their Social Security. You can get benefits when you’re younger than 65, but only if you’re on disability. You’ve had to receive disability benefits for 24 months.
There are penalties if you don’t sign up for Medicare within a certain time frame of turning 65.
Medigap Can Be an Option
This is used to supplement your Medicare coverage. However, it’s important to remember that this is a private insurance policy. It’s important for helping pay for deductibles and copays.
However, as with any plan, it’s important to do your own research and see if it is worth the investment for you. Be aware that plans that offer more coverage will also be more expensive.
Long-Term Care Insurance for Memory Care Living
Many people use this as an option to help pay for Alzheimer’s or dementia care.
In order to receive long-term care insurance, you must purchase it before a dementia diagnosis or before you start exhibiting symptoms of dementia.
Before you buy long-term care insurance, it’s important that you thoroughly evaluate the pros and cons. Be sure to take into account the complexity of the plan.
However, while long-term care insurance can be useful, there are several factors companies take into account when they price their insurance plans. These include:
- How old you are
- How much the policy pays each day
- How many years it will pay out
You should also be very specific when doing your research. Ask the company about:
- The specific type of care it covers
- The forms of dementia (such as Alzheimer’s) that it covers
- The daily benefit
- How long it will pay out
- Limits to how much it will pay
Where to Find Additional Information
We realize that these insurance plans and policies are extensive, and it’s impossible to cover every possible situation in this article. Therefore, here are some useful sources of information you might want to check out:
- The official government Medicare website: https://www.medicare.gov/
- The Alzheimer’s Association: https://www.alz.org/
How Much Do You Know About Alzheimer’s and Dementia? Important Information You Can Use
We’ve explored what memory care is, how it can help your loved one, and how you can select a quality memory care facility.
But we believe it’s also important for you to know about dementia, since most memory care residents have this illness. It’s also vital to know the difference between dementia and simple forgetfulness. Understanding these differences and educating yourself about these diseases will help you determine when or if memory care is an appropriate option.
How Do You Tell The Difference Between Dementia and Forgetfulness?
Be honest – how many times have you frantically searched the living room for your keys? We’re willing to bet that this has happened more than once.
But is that reason to worry? After all, how do you tell the difference between dementia and forgetfulness?
We provide this useful guide as well as signs that your loved one may need and benefit from memory care.
The Difference Between Dementia and Forgetfulness
It’s perfectly normal to forget things.
It happens all the time.
But when this forgetfulness progresses, there can be problems and possible signs of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
Have you ever forgotten the grocery list or couldn’t find something? Perhaps you missed a deadline.
Don’t panic. Millions of people have been in your shoes. These are signs of normal forgetfulness.
However, if you or someone you love forgets basic things such as your address or where you went to high school, you should be alert. Often, those with dementia may wander or get lost in familiar surroundings.
It’s also important to remember that dementias such as Alzheimer’s often have physical and emotional symptoms as well. Those with the diseases may be excessively moody, paranoid, or lose control over bodily functions.
What Is Dementia?
First, it’s important to understand that dementia is not a disease itself. Rather, it’s a general term that covers several conditions that affect the brain and how you think. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia, accounting for more than half of cases.
So, when you hear the term dementia, think of it as an overall “umbrella” term covering several situations.
Some people may say that someone is “senile” or has “senile dementia.” These are not correct.
Serious mental decline is not a normal part of aging.
Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. Different types of dementia are named for the areas of the brain that they affect.
What Are the Stages of Dementia?
As we mentioned earlier, dementia actually covers an entire scope of conditions, and the stages may vary slightly between them. Therefore, we’ll outline the stages of Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia.
Early Stages of Alzheimer’s
Signs at this stage include:
- Difficulty coming up with the right word
- Problems remembering names of new people
- Challenges performing tasks in social settings
- Forgetting something you just read
- Difficulty planning or organizing
As the disease progresses, you may notice:
- Difficulty remembering personal history
- Forgetting major events
- Inability to remember basic information like address or telephone number
- Confusion about date and times
- Problems with bladder control
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Wandering or becoming lost
During this time, there may also be certain changes in behavior. They may become paranoid or even have delusions. Many also show repetitive behavior and wring their hands or shred tissue.
They may also:
- Have difficulty sitting
- Have problems swallowing
- Become unaware of surroundings
- Lose awareness
- Experience problems with walking
- Have progressive difficulty communicating
At this later stage, those with Alzheimer’s may be more prone to infections as well.
In the final stages of Alzheimer’s, your loved one may require the 24/7 assistance in a memory care center.
What is Normal Age-related Memory Loss?
It’s very common to forget things as you age. In fact, almost half of those over 65 experience memory loss. It should not be confused with the serious decline seen in dementias such as Alzheimer’s.
For example, in age-related memory loss, it’s perfectly understandable to forget details of a discussion that took place over a year ago. It’s even expected to forget things and events occasionally.
Don’t panic if you sometimes have difficulty finding the right word, especially if friends or relatives aren’t worried about your memory.
Here’s a classic example that will help you determine the difference between what is normal age-related memory loss and dementia:
It’s normal to not remember the name of an acquaintance or someone you’re not very close to. However, if you’re not recognizing family members or close friends, then you should schedule an appointment with your doctor.
What Causes Alzheimer’s Disease?
Actually, scientists are still learning more about the disease. Research is underway on what determines who will develop Alzheimer’s.
Currently, the following are considered to be potential factors:
- Family history
- Abnormal protein deposits in the brain
- Personal health
Memory Care: An Important Option for Those With Alzheimer’s or Other Dementias
We’ve covered a lot of material in this paper, and we realize you may still have questions. You may also be experiencing anxiety if your loved one is exhibiting symptoms of dementia, or even if you’re concerned that you have these same issues.
In a matter as complex as dementia, one article can provide a comprehensive overview, but we want you to know that we are still available to answer any questions you may have about memory care centers.
All you have to do is contact us at Cedar Cove Assisted Living and Memory Care via phone at (910) 397-7812. Our website also has useful information about how you can schedule a tour of our facilities.
About Cedar Cove Assisted Living and Memory Care
Nestled in the beautiful coastal city of Wilmington, NC, Cedar Cove Assisted Living and Memory Care provides our residents with a safe, yet stimulating environment. With 28 beds in our Memory Care Center, our specialized staff has undergone extensive training, so they know how to best serve your loved one.
As a result, we allow you to return to your role as son, daughter, or spouse. Allow us to take over the role as caregiver. We consider it a privilege to care for those who have contributed so much to your life.
One stroll through our grounds or a short visit to our community demonstrates the warm environment that so many of our residents love calling home.
At Cedar Cove, you can expect compassionate, quality care for your loved one that provides peace of mind.
For information, to reserve a space or to schedule a tour, simply contact us at (910) 397-7812 or visit the Contact Us page on our website to reserve a time for a tour. We look forward to meeting you and will be happy to answer any additional questions you have about memory care.