Memory care communities differ from other senior living options such as independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing, because they are specifically designed for the needs of those experiencing any type of memory loss whether that be a type of dementia or mild cognitive impairment. Memory care communities offer a secure environment. Residents who are or become an elopement risk are provided an environment that has secured doors that help prevent elopement. Some people refer to secure environments as “locked down.” Locked down means the doors are secure and residents cannot leave the building on their own will. Reality is that the doors are secure to keep residents safe. If a resident wants to leave the building, they are welcome to, as long as they are safe and have someone with them.

Memory care communities offer more than just a secure lock down building like staff trainings, tailored activities, dementia friendly environments, and dietary programs.

Staff Training

Staff in these environments are usually more experienced with issues related to dementia; therefore, they can more properly respond to the needs that arise as cognitive issues progress. Some communities offer dementia training courses prior to working with the resident and throughout their employment. However, do not assume that just because a community is labeled as a “memory care” that staff are provided dementia specific education and are prepared for the changes that occur throughout the progression of dementia.

Tailored Activities

Memory care communities can take extra time to get to know their residents to tailor their activities to their interest, needs, and current physical and mental abilities. Memory care communities offer programs that are shown to benefit people with dementia like music therapy, reminiscence therapy, and art therapy. Often times they offer activities outside the community that align with the interest of their residents. Some examples of outings are trips to local museums, parks, restaurants, stores and coffee shops.

Dementia Friendly Environment

The layout of memory care communities is typically designed to give residents independence while ensuring their safety. Hallways may be continuous or long so residents have the ability to wander freely. Many memory care communities have secure outdoor spaces, so residents have access to the outdoors without the risk of safety hazards. Secure outdoor spaces may include gardens, lawn games, sitting areas, and bird feeders.

Dietary Programs

To ensure proper nutrition intake staff needs to pay special attention to residents’ eating habits. Residents may need verbal encouragement and/or hands on assistance at meal times. Finger foods and adaptive utensils are a helpful option that allow residents meal time independence when they no longer know how to use utensils.

Questions to Ask Memory Care Staff and Yourself When Touring a Memory Care Community

There are many general questions one can ask when researching senior living communities but the following questions below are specific to memory care communities:

1.) Does staff receive extra education specific to memory loss?

2.) Are activities tailored to the specific needs of the residents?

3.) Will your community care for my loved one as their level of care changes and through end of life?

4.) When my loved one presents with agitation, irritability, and/or aggression how is staff trained to respond?

5.) What sets your memory care apart from other memory care communities?

6.) Does staff provide hands on assistance at meal times?

7.) Do residents have opportunities for safe wandering?

Hopefully with this knowledge you will feel more confident when beginning your search for memory care communities. The best advice we can give is to think specifically about your aging loved one’s unique needs when touring a memory care community. If you want more detailed information about memory care communities and assistance in your search reach out to Denver Senior Care consultants today.