How to Evaluate a Memory Care Program

How to Evaluate a Memory Care Program

The early stages of Alzheimer’s disease are known to cause memory problems. However, as the disease progresses, more symptoms develop. Your senior loved one may experience difficulty with routine daily tasks, communication skills, and appropriate social behavior.

A memory care community with specialized caregivers and a supportive environment may be a solution.

Coping with day-to-day living can be frustrating for someone in the intermediary and later stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Living in a nurturing, specialized environment created for people with dementia may help manage your senior loved one’s symptoms.

A safe, controlled environment may also help them to live a more independent lifestyle.

Finding the right memory care program can feel overwhelming. There are many factors to consider, including types of treatment, staff, and the campus itself.

To evaluate memory care, you’ll need a guide. Here are the important criteria to consider when you’re touring the various communities near you.

Memory Care Basics

  1. First, you’ll want to see the community’s inspection reports. These are based on surveys completed by the state the community is located in. Reviewing it can help alert you to any issues the state regulators found concerning. Or it can put your mind at ease that the community is well run.
  2. Next, ask about the philosophy of care. Does the community promote independence among people with memory loss? That’s important to ask because some researchers say maintaining a sense of independence for as long as is safely possible may help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.
  3. What specialty programs are offered? Is there a separate life enrichment calendar with activities designed for people with memory loss? What about a supportive dining program?
  4. Plan to visit a variety of communities at different times of the day. Try to be there for a meal, too. Talk to staff and residents and even families if they are available.

Other Factors to Consider When Choosing a Memory Care Program

People who have dementia require specialized care which often incorporates special programs and techniques based on their needs. Making each day purposeful is a common goal, so ask to see a copy of the activity calendar for the month.

Your senior loved one’s unique needs should be addressed in a comprehensive care plan that includes various activities and therapies. For example, some memory care programs have adopted a person-centered approach to care. This approach focuses on the individual and not just their disease.

Caregiving Staff

You’ll want to follow a full checklist of staff qualifications when it comes time to evaluate memory care programs. The Alzheimer’s Association maintains a very useful checklist on their website. It includes staff to resident ratio, training, and caring philosophy of the community staff.

The Community

When you visit, a community should leave you with the sense that staff and residents feel a mutual respect. Personal care should be carried out so that residents maintain their dignity. Residents should appear relaxed, well-kempt, and engaged.

Practical Matters

Finally, meals should be held at regular times and offer appetizing food in a pleasant environment. Nutrition is very often an issue for people who have dementia so ask how that is monitored.

Staff should be encouraging during meals. In later stages of the disease, caregivers likely need to provide hands-on assistance with eating.

Help is Available

This is by no means an exhaustive list for evaluating memory care programs. Finding the right community takes time and lots of research. But with patience, you will be able to find a caring environment for your senior loved one.

Heritage Senior Communities can help you with the decision-making process involving your senior loved one. Our communities throughout Michigan and Indiana have memory care programs we call “The Terrace”.

Staff members who work in The Terrace programs are dedicated to serving the special needs of the residents through a philosophy of ‘person-centered care’. Our aim is to provide a safe environment where your senior loved one can thrive and experience increased quality of life.

Call us at your convenience to find out about our Specialized Dementia Care or to schedule a tour of one of our communities near you.

Understanding Challenging Behaviors in Men with Alzheimer’s disease

Understanding Challenging Behaviors in Men with Alzheimer’s disease

While the number of women living with Alzheimer’s disease continues to outnumber men, more men are moving to dementia care assisted living communities and at a faster rate. A study released in late 2014 examined the issues behind these statistics.

Agitation, Wandering and Aggression in Men with Alzheimer’s Disease

The research conducted by a national senior care placement company looked at memory care admissions from July of 2011 through June of 2014. It found that men are 27% more likely to require a dedicated dementia care program than their female counterparts. Men also moved to these communities at a 14% faster rate than women.

Two primary reasons seemed to lead families to search for a memory care program. Wandering and aggression were both behaviors adult children and caregiving spouses found too difficult to safely manage in their homes. The study reinforced what many Alzheimer’s experts already knew. Men have higher rates of both these challenging behaviors. They are 8% more likely to wander and 30% more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviors than women with Alzheimer’s disease.

Potential Causes Wandering and Aggression in People with Alzheimer’s

While the cause of wandering and aggression still isn’t completely understood, experts believe there are some factors that may contribute to both:

  1. Too Much Stimulation: A noisy, overly busy environment can negatively impact someone with Alzheimer’s. Because the disease causes damage to the brain, people with Alzheimer’s have difficulty processing too much information at one time. The frustration it causes can trigger angry, aggressive outbursts.
  2. Exhaustion and Chronic Fatigue: Alzheimer’s disrupts a person’s sleep-wake cycle. It isn’t uncommon for someone living with the disease to have problems sleeping and to go several days without sleep. Even though they are physically exhausted, they are unable to sleep. It can result in stress, anxiety and aggression.
  3. Unmet Needs: The loss of verbal communication skills makes it difficult to know what a senior loved one living with Alzheimer’s needs. They may be hungry, thirsty or have to use the bathroom and be unable to communicate it. These unmet needs can produce episodes of wandering and aggressive behavior with their caregiver. Undiagnosed pain can also cause a similar reaction.
  4. Communication Problems: Having problems following a caregiver’s directions can increase anxiety and agitation. Because a person with Alzheimer’s disease likely has an impaired abstract thought process, they may not be able to perform tasks that require the use of some types of memory. Trying to do so can result in anger and frustration.
  5. Medication Side Effects: Older adults process medicine differently than younger people. They sometimes require smaller dosages or a different medication entirely. The same is true for a person with Alzheimer’s disease. Difficult behaviors may be the result of being overmedicated or an interaction between their medications.

To learn more about Aggression and Anger visit the Alzheimer’s Association resource center online. They share information and suggestions to help families manage challenges ranging from how to get someone with Alzheimer’s to eat to how to use visual cues to communicate.


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