An older man and his adult son reading a book together

Memory Care vs. Caregiving at Home

Inspīr Senior Living Team

Many older adults envision a future where they can age-in-place at their family home. However, this isn’t a realistic option for many aging adults. At some point in the aging process, older adults will likely need additional support with activities of daily living, especially if they develop chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Most family members and even hired in-home caregivers aren’t equipped to care for someone with complex medical conditions, especially when a loved one requires round-the-clock care. Fortunately, there are other options available to older adults when the time comes for a higher level of care.

According to WebMd, “unlike a standard assisted living facility, memory care caters to people with problems with memory and thinking, also known as cognitive impairments.” Memory care facilities provide trained staff who are specialized in caring for people living with dementia, later stages of Alzheimer’s disease or other memory loss conditions. Memory care facilities have robust offerings that likely include meal preparation and feeding assistance, housekeeping, laundry, social activities, safety precautions, medication management and medical care. Memory care facilities also provide 24-hour supervision and lower staff-to-resident ratios for individualized care.


Signs it May Be Time for Memory Care

While making the transition to a memory care facility can be an emotional decision for both the person needing the care and their family members, there are some behaviors that can signal a need for more care. According to U.S. News, if you’re loved one is exhibiting one or more of these needs, you may consider a transition to memory care:

  • Changes in behavior. Individuals with dementia can experience extreme changes in their behavior that present themselves quite suddenly. It’s best to consult their physician to see if these are related to dementia or if something else is going on. A person might also become more agitated and anxious as the disease progresses. Managing these behaviors can become quite difficult for caregivers and family members. Memory care staff are trained to properly support an individual with these behaviors. 
  • Confusion and disorientation. Dementia can cause confusion and disorientation, which can increase a person’s risk of falling or other injury. This is also risky behavior if a person is still driving as they may find it difficult to abide by traffic laws. In addition, those with confusion and disorientation are at greater risk of wandering outside the home and becoming lost. Memory care facilities are most often secured, which means your loved one would be escorted by a staff member when leaving the building.
  • A decline in physical health. If you notice your loved one’s appearance has changed or if they’ve lost weight, it could be a sign that they need more support. If someone becomes thin or frail, it often means that they forget to shop for groceries or forget to cook and forgo eating.
  • A caregiver’s deterioration. Some people with dementia are cared for by a private duty caregiver or family member. When a caregiver dies or if their health declines, this could leave the person in need of care in a tough situation. However, this could present a good opportunity to transition into a higher level of care.
  • Incontinence. Oftentimes, incontinence can be managed at home. However, many individuals with dementia experience severe incontinence that is hard for one person to manage alone. If adult diapers are becoming ineffective, it may be a sign that your loved one needs extra support. Bladder and bowel incontinence can lead to serious infections such as urinary tract infections, which can lead to kidney infections or blood infections when left untreated. Patients in memory care facilities receive a high level of care which can help prevent these infections from progressing to more serious conditions.
  • Difficulty with communication. If your loved one has difficulty with communicating, such as sending texts, emails or leaving voice messages that are incoherent, it may be a sign that it’s time for memory care.


What to Look for in a Memory Care Facility

Once you’ve decided to make the move to a memory care facility, it’s important that you choose one that best fits your loved one’s needs. Here are a few things to look for as your tour different communities, as suggested by BetterHelp:

  • Medication stability. One of the most important things to look for when choosing a memory care facility, is how they handle medication management. Many residents of memory care communities also have additional health concerns which are managed by medication. Make sure to ask a staff member how these transfers are handled on a routine basis.
  • Use of technology. New technologies and therapies are being implemented in memory care communities across the nation to improve patient outcomes. Choosing a memory care community that makes use of these technologies can improve the quality of life for your loved one. These new approaches may include the use of robotic pets and virtual reality.
  • Safety of the memory care facility. Another important thing to look out for is how safety is prioritized within the community. In general, memory facilities should have locked doors on all exits and entrances to the unit. These doors should be controlled by electronic locks that require a code to be opened.
  • Level of supervision. There should always be a staff member present in a memory care unit. Be sure to ask about staff to patient ratios when you a tour a community to make sure your loved one will be getting the attention and support they need.
  • Trained staff. Not all healthcare staff is specifically trained in memory care. It’s a good idea to ask a staff member how they approach employee training, especially when it comes to caregivers and nursing assistants. It’s best to choose a facility that trains its staff specifically in memory care therapy and techniques. This ensures that the staff is able to cope with challenging dementia behaviors.


Questions to Consider

Before you start your search for a memory care facility, it’s important to think about your loved one’s wishes and priorities. As you think about what your loved one will need to be successful, start making a list of questions to ask staff at each memory care community you tour. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends asking these questions for starters:

  • Is medical care provided?
  • How often are physicians and nurses or nurse practitioners on premises?
  • Is there a registered nurse on site at all times?
  • Are activities available on the weekends or during evenings?
  • Are activities designed to meet specific needs, interests and abilities?
  • Is transportation available for medical appointments and shopping?
  • Are care planning sessions held regularly? Are they held at convenient times?
  • Do indoor spaces allow freedom of movement and promote independence?
  • Are indoor and outdoor areas safe and secure? Are they monitored?
  • Are there regular meal and snack times?
  • Is food appetizing? (Ask to see the weekly menu and come for a meal.)
  • Is there flexibility in mealtimes based on the individual’s personal schedule?
  • Is the dining environment pleasant and comfortable?

At Inspīr, our Oceana Memory Care program offers you a new way to care for your loved one with dementia. One that provides exceptional care and life enrichment for them, and expert guidance and support to you. The result: peace of mind.

Oceana includes personalized, wellness-focused lifestyle programming, customized care plans, and a highly trained staff—all in a therapeutic and secure setting. Our evidence-based approach to senior memory care is integrative, intentional, interdisciplinary, intimate, and individualized, enabling our residents to get the most out of every moment, every day.


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