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Growing older is something the we all must face eventually. After retirement, many seniors take the opportunity to downsize, travel the world, or even move into a retirement community. This gives them the chance to live out their golden years with ease and surrounded by friends and people who can help when it is needed. While this sounds ideal, sadly, a certain percentage of seniors must spend their later years battling to retain their sense of self due to memory conditions such as dementia. Thankfully, there are care options for seniors facing such conditions, namely dementia care.
What is Memory and Dementia Care?
Dementia is a basic term for a range of degenerative diseases that affect the brain. These diseases cause a decline in thinking skills, problem-solving, language, memory, and even the ability to perform basic tasks. There are different levels and types of dementia, and most are caused by Alzheimer's disease. Unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia, but with the proper treatment, the progression may be slowed or at least managed.
Several therapies exist to help lessen the symptoms of dementia, most of which are provided in a controlled setting such as a memory care facility or a nursing home. Dementia has several different stages and also affects people in different ways. Specific treatments will need to be tailored to fit the needs of each patient, but there are many tried and true methods of symptom management that have proven effective.
Depending on the severity of a senior's symptoms, and the stage of their disease, dementia care may include medication, physical therapy, music therapy, periodic isolation therapy and more. There are facilities dedicated to providing quality dementia care for all stages of the disease. Some are stand-alone locations while others may be no more than a wing inside of a larger assisted living or continuing care facility.
Signs That Your Loved One Needs Dementia Care
Memory disorders such as dementia are hard to acknowledge, especially by seniors who are living with the condition. For family members, it can be hard to admit that there is a problem, even when the signs are easy to see. No one wants to admit they may be having problems with mental alertness or a memory issue, as it can truly be deeply embarrassing. Because many seniors hide their actual need for help, it can be hard to spot memory conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Here are a few signs to look out for that may mean your loved one is suffering from a memory condition and is ready for dementia care.
- Short-Term Memory Loss – Forgetting the exact details of a year ago or even from your youth is normal. Seniors who have a hard time remembering things that happened as recently as a week ago or those who forget regular people in their lives such as family members may be suffering from dementia.
- Difficulty with communication – As we get older, it is normal to occasionally forget a word, idea, date or even a place. Forgetting the names or faces of common people in your life or using the wrong words frequently, on the other hand, is not normal. These are common signs of early-stage dementia in most seniors.
- Avoiding new experiences – Learning new things become harder as we age, but those who suffer from dementia have an even tougher time. Seniors who avoid trying new things or new experiences to avoid embarrassment may be suffering from dementia.
- Abnormal Reactions – Most people who forget minor details will laugh them off or simply flush with embarrassment for a short time. Seniors who are having trouble remembering basic things, are unable to focus, or who lose track of their thoughts may react differently. If challenged, they may get upset or create an elaborate excuse to cover their mental state. These are also common signs of a memory condition that may mean it is time for dementia care.
- Dependence on Caregiver or Spouse – It is normal for dementia patients to require more help with even the most basic of tasks. If you notice that your loved one becomes overly reliant on the help of their spouse or caregiver, it may be a sign that it is time for dementia care.
- Easily irritated or overly quiet – A change in mood can signal many things. It can be a sign of depression, illness, or just general fatigue. Many seniors who are suffering from dementia may lash out suddenly without provocation or they may lapse into long periods of silence for no reason. It is important to see if there are other reasons for their mood changes since dementia is not the only cause.
If you think your loved one may need dementia care, it is a good idea to bring up the subject with them or their doctor. It is a very sensitive topic that many seniors ignore completely or avoid until there is no way to deny there may be cause for concern. The best way to handle any senior who may be suffering from a memory condition is to speak to them with compassion, patience, and understanding.
What Amenities Do You Get in Memory Care Facilities?
Senior care homes offer a wide range of services for their residents. Prepared meals, help with feeding and bathing, and medication management is just naming a few. Depending on the facility, there may be planned outings, exercise programs and more. Senior living commutes are a great way for the elderly to get the help they need while still maintaining an active lifestyle.
Memory care facilities also offer the same services as traditional senior care homes. In addition to the basic services, there are special amenities available that cater to those who suffer from memory conditions such as dementia.
The staff to resident ratio in memory care facilities is usually much smaller than you would find in a more traditional setting, and the layout of the facility will also differ. Dementia patients require a more structured and soothing environment regardless of what stage their condition happens to be. Dementia care facilities nurture a calming environment to help residents to cope with their condition more effectively.
Staff are trained in the care of dementia patients, and medication management is also a big part of dementia care. Security is much stricter in a dementia care facility to keep the residents safe from themselves and from others. Planned social activities and higher medical monitoring are common as well. As the disease progresses, a person with dementia will lose their ability to complete even the most basic of tasks, and because of that, in dementia care homes the caregivers offer much more support than what is offered in a traditional senior care home.
Dementia Care Communities vs. Assisted Living Facilities
Though assisted living homes and dementia care communities share similar goals, their services differ greatly once you look past the basics. Dementia care communities are designed for the specific needs of dementia patients. Most facilities that cater to dementia residents will have a circular layout to reduce the stress felt when those with the disease reach a barrier. It also allows residents to wander safely without getting lost or disoriented. Assisted living homes will often be built in a way that resembles apartments or private residences to help maintain the feel of independent living. There is also no self serve kitchens or medication stations in dementia care homes, unlike an assisted living facility.
There is a certain level of security in all senior care facilities such as assisted living homes. While assisted living may have a staff member sitting at a front desk and locked unmonitored doors, dementia care is much different. All entry and exit doors will usually be locked or monitored. This helps to prevent wandering as well as keep outsiders from luring away vulnerable seniors. Even the outdoor areas are secure where seniors can enjoy the sun but not leave the premises.
Assisted living communities are places with vibrant colors and lively activity. After all, they are meant for active seniors who simply need a moderate amount of help to live normally. Dementia care communities, on the other hand, focus on keeping the environment in the home calm. The colors are usually neutral, with the home letting in plenty of natural lighting.
Nutrition is a big concern for those with dementia. Studies have shown that dementia care patients often need visual triggers to stimulate their appetite. Many dementia care homes will have fish tanks and screens showing visual cues to help trigger the desire to eat in those at risk.
Medication management is one of the biggest differences between an assisted living home and a dementia care facility. Most caregivers in assisted living communities are tasked with reminding residents to take their medication, whereas in dementia care facilities, caregivers are able to administer the medication. The specifics may vary from state to state, so it is important to check on any rules and regulations in your state regarding dementia care and medication management.
The staff members employed in a dementia care facility are specially trained to manage seniors with memory conditions. This includes understanding the various stages of the disease, how to respond during an episode, and how to communicate effectively. With assisted living, caregivers are trained in offering basic assistance, but nothing in regards to specific medical or memory-related resident care.
Safety checks are more frequent in dementia care communities and some locations may even assign tracking bracelets for their residents’ safety. Though most senior living locations will keep cleaning elements and medications in a designated area, in dementia care settings these items are placed under lock and key. This helps prevent accidents in the event a senior is interested in self-harm or harming others due to their condition.
Memory Care Costs - Cheapest and Most Expensive Places
Seniors tend to have the highest medical cost compared to any other age group, though their income is also much lower than other age groups. As we age, conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and memory conditions increase. These age-related ailments require specialized care, specialty drugs, and creative intervention in order to keep them under control.
Though age-related conditions are expected, memory conditions are set apart from the regular list of age-related complications. Dementia specifically is very difficult to manage because there is no cure for the condition and there is no way to slow the advancement of the disease in the brain. Of all age-related ailments, dementia is the only one in the top ten list that has no cure.
Regardless of all the research and a vast number of dementia care communities available, it still remains one of the costliest conditions to manage in the US. That being said, there are still plenty of treatment options and quality dementia care homes to choose from. Paying for dementia care has become much easier with the help of long-term care insurance, Medicaid/Medicare, and even SSI payments.
Dementia care can be provided at home or in a dedicated facility. Most families choose to keep their loved ones at home for as long as possible. Some cities and states tend to be on the more expensive side, while others are extraordinarily affordable. Overall, dementia care tends to be much more affordable in the south and more costly in the northeast.
The most affordable memory care available in a private facility is located in Missouri, while the most affordable for home care is in Louisiana. The most expensive memory care in a facility or in-home is Alaska and California equally. While these locations may not surprise you, the actual numbers and variation in cost can be shocking.
Rates are determined according to the level of care a senior requires as well as the actual location and type of facility you choose. A nursing home for an end-stage dementia patient can range from $4,750 a month on the low end to $25,350 a month on the high end. For an assisted living community or dementia care community, you can expect to pay between $2,900 to $7,450 a month for dementia care. An adult daycare for dementia patients averages around $65 a day, while in-home dementia care can range for $65 dollars a day up to $225 daily. Of course, the level of care has a lot to do with the range of these prices, but this is a good way to gauge what you will most likely pay overall.
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