For many individuals and families, making the decision to move to assisted living can be emotionally challenging. The idea that another transition — one from assisted living to memory care — might be needed can be even more difficult.
Part of the struggle families face involves recognizing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other dementias and determining if a loved one needs more support than assisted living can provide. In this article, we explore what memory care offers and the signs to look for when considering if a move from assisted living is best.
How Memory Care Differs From Assisted Living
Families with a loved one already living in a senior community may wonder how memory support differs from the assisted living services and amenities already being provided.
Simply put, residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias have additional needs specific to their conditions. Memory care offers an extra level of support so your loved one can continue to live as comfortably as they do in assisted living.
Some of the key differences include:
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 6 in 10 people who live with dementia will wander, presenting a threat to their safety. Once an individual begins to show signs of wandering behaviors, they are at high risk of wandering away or becoming lost — behavior that can be distressing for caregivers and dangerous for the individual.
Memory care offers a secure environment in which residents can move as freely as possible, with trained and certified team members who help prevent wandering and ensure resident safety. Team members who work with residents living with Alzheimer’s disease are uniquely qualified to notice changes in your loved one that may require intervention while providing tailored care to help them not only cope with their condition, but also thrive.
Commitment to Routines
People living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are most comfortable with routines that ground them to their environment. Households that serve people with dementia emphasize routine and familiarity, helping residents feel more relaxed and confident.
The physical design of a memory care household — both in common areas and living spaces — contributes to the well-being of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Layouts of hallways and rooms are kept simple so residents can easily navigate them and avoid confusion.
Too many signs and visual cues can also feel overwhelming. Décor in memory care emphasizes spaciousness, light, and a sense of familiarity, comfort, and confidence. Common areas feel cozy and inviting, and families are encouraged to visit and be part of residents’ daily lives — making the environment feel even more like “home.”
Signs It Might Be Time to Move to Memory Support
There are no clear-cut criteria to help a family know when a loved one in assisted living would benefit from a move to memory care. Each person with dementia is unique, including their disease progression, and a concern for one individual might not apply to another.
That said, look for these four signs when you consider whether your loved one might benefit from moving from assisted living to memory care:
1. Changes in Behavior
Everyone has days when they feel moody, angry, sad, or forgetful. But when you start seeing these behaviors during every visit and every phone call — and these long-term feelings are unusual for your loved one — it might be time to talk to care team members about what they are noticing.
Other medical and personal factors may be at play that don’t signal dementia but are still concerning. Understanding what’s going on with your loved one is vital when you’re considering whether they need memory support.
Wandering can be a serious concern for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Wandering increases the risk of falls, exposure to bad weather, and other injuries. Moreover, wandering can affect a resident’s well-being, as the experience is often disorienting and agitating.
Wandering is different than strolling or exercising. The wanderer might believe they’re walking home or to a place from their childhood. Or they might think they need to complete a task or go to work. Stress and loneliness can also cause wandering.
The secure environment of memory support household not only keeps residents safe, but also decreases the stressors that may lead to wandering.
3. Poor Hygiene
As Alzheimer’s and other dementias progress, people may forget to practice basic hygiene. This might include forgetting to bathe, brush teeth, change into fresh clothes, or perform other basic self-care tasks.
Another indicator of dementia is incontinence. Residents in assisted living who stop asking for help when they need it might be forgetting to do so. A move to memory care provides additional support from team members while allowing your loved one to maintain their dignity.
4. Withdrawal From Interests and Friends
If your loved one has stopped being social or pursuing things they used to be passionate about, it could be a sign of dementia. This could include:
- Not participating in social activities or joining friends for dinner.
- Not attending to their lifelong interests.
- Not taking care of their living space (e.g., not watering houseplants, being unusually messy).
Depression in seniors isn’t unusual and isn’t necessarily a sign of dementia, but it can be a symptom and worsened by the condition. Again, speak with the community’s care team members and ask if they have noticed anything unusual.
Deciding whether to move from assisted living to memory care is a big decision for families who want to ensure their loved ones receive the support they need while staying as independent as possible. WesleyLife communities strive to make this transition non-disruptive for you and your loved one. Reach out to us to learn more about our memory support philosophy and options.