Every day, seniors from all over the world find themselves facing a difficult diagnosis, as millions are told they have the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Stretching far beyond "senior moments"; and momentary lapses in judgment, early dementia means seniors are showing serious signs of cognitive decline that can not only impact their memory but their ability to live safely on their own.
For many of these seniors, this means it is time to transition from living independently to some type of care facility. For many elderly individuals and their families, this means choosing between an assisted living facility or a memory care center. This can be a difficult decision for many to make. Some will choose to immediately go to a community that specializes in memory care, while others will choose to begin with assisted living and ease into the care model, and eventually transition to memory care when it is more necessary. Some people prefer the gradual transition and don't mind the prospect of moving in the future, while others would prefer to stay in one place and start with memory care as early as possible.
Which path is the right one? It all depends on the individual and the situation at hand, about the needs of the individual and about personal preference. It can be a hard decision for any senior to make, but it is one that countless seniors are faced with every day. One of the best ways to make this important care decision is to gain a better understanding of what both assisted living and memory care entail and what can be expected from these two different, yet equally qualified types of care.
For many seniors starting to show the early signs of dementia, the first stop in their care journey is to an assisted living facility. This is often one of the first places that seniors will go when they start to need care, as these communities are designed to help seniors maintain their independence while transitioning into care.
Assisted living is meant for seniors who are fairly independent on their own, but who may need a little help in cooking, managing their medications, cleaning or even dressing. Assisted living is first and foremost a long-term housing solution that also provides its residents with health and support services as needed.
For many seniors, they continue to live independently on their own, in their own apartment, just as they would at home with the only major difference being they have meals provided and someone to clean their apartments as needed. For others, assisted living means having a smaller place to call their own, along with assistance in bathing, dressing and taking their medications, while still having independence in other areas of their life.
Typically, assisted living facilities offer residents with the option of having their own private or shared apartment. These apartments can range from small studios with a bathroom to large, multi-bedroom apartments with kitchen and laundry, it all depends on the facility and the needs of the particular senior.
Other amenities that seniors can expect to find in these assisted living communities include:
- Community areas for games and social events.
- Monitored outdoor areas that residents can enjoy safely.
- Maintenance and housekeeping services.
- On-site dining rooms or multiple dining options.
- Complimentary transportation services for resident outings.
- Private transportation services for residents who need to attend appointments.
- Exercise classes and fitness centers.
- 24/7 staff members to help with individual resident needs.
- Craft rooms and movie rooms for specialty events.
Many have described assisted living as a type of apartment complex or college dorm, meant specifically for seniors at all different stages of the aging process. In these communities, residents will find a unique mix of seniors. Some are extremely independent and just want the social activity that comes with an assisted living facility, others may need help with most daily activities, but are not quite ready for a nursing home or more serious level of care.
Memory Care Communities
As the name suggests, memory care communities are long-term housing solutions designed specifically for those with Alzheimer's disease, dementia or a similar cognitive condition. These communities are meant to help those who cannot live independently on their own get the assistance they need in the most supportive environment possible. Since dementia is such a unique and progressive condition, any memory care communities have different "levels" or areas of their facilities based on how much help an individual will need.
One of the best things about these memory care communities is that they not only provide 24/7 supervision, but around-the-clock activities as well. Most memory care units know that one of the worst things for someone living with dementia or Alzheimer's disease is to be bored or unstimulated. Sitting in front of a television and having no social interactions is not going to help someone with dementia and it will only expedite their decline.
Residents can not only enjoy a number of activities in memory care, designed to be fun, social and stimulating, but they can also include a number of other amenities such as:
- Medical support and care.
- On-site dining services.
- Maintenance and housekeeping services.
- Medication management.
- On-site programs, games and activities.
- Security to prevent common hazards and wandering.
- Trips off-site to safe destinations in the community.
- 24/7 access to staff members who specialize in memory care.
- Help with bathing, dressing and personal care.
Many seniors find that this type of community, that specializes in helping those with dementia through all stages of the disease, provides them with the best opportunity to live the safe, happy, health and balanced life they deserve.
For most seniors today dealing with the early signs of dementia, there is no one "right" choice when it comes to where the best place for care is. Ultimately, seniors and their families should weigh their options, know what each community entails and make a choice based on what is best for the senior and their family during this time.