Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias brings exceptional challenges. You may find you can no longer provide the level of care your loved one needs. The risks and responsibilities may have become too much, prompting the question of moving your loved one to a senior care facility that specializes in memory care.
“Alzheimer’s slowly destroys memory and thinking skills,” says Tangela Manuel at Pathways Memory Care. “As the disease progresses, family members often find the safest place for their loved one is a memory care community, where care is available 24 hours a day.”
Evaluating potential communities
If you’re considering a memory care community for your loved one, it’s important to start the search in the early stages of disease progression. “If you prolong the decision, your loved one’s memory may be so impaired that their new residence will never feel like home,” Tangela Manuel says.
Tangela Manuel offers 10 guidelines for assessing senior care community options for a loved one living with memory challenges. Consider:
- The community’s overall approach to caring for residents with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias
- The level of care and personal assistance provided
- The ratio of staff to residents
- How staff ensure the stability of a routine while maximizing resident independence
- How the facility is secured
- The specialized training and continuing education staff have received
- How staff assess and monitor disease progression, create a supportive environment, and communicate with family members about their loved one’s care
- Non-pharmacological interventions offered, such as aromatherapy
- The meal experience, including accommodation of special dietary needs, such as pureed food for those with swallowing challenges
- Activities provided to keep your loved one physically, mentally, and socially active
“Tour potential communities,” Tangela Manuel says. “Talk with staff. Visit with other families whose loved one resides at the facility. Observe residents’ sense of engagement and wellbeing.”
As you assess whether a memory care community is right for your loved one, questions reach far beyond cost. An overarching consideration is the community’s philosophy of memory care. Pathways Memory Care, for example, follows the Warchol Best-Abilities Care Model℠. Developed by Kim Warchol, a pioneer in dementia care, this compassionate approach enables residents to live their functional, emotional, and spiritual potential at every stage of dementia.
“The cornerstone of this program is delivering person-centered care that helps our residents thrive and maintain health and purpose,” Tangela Manuel says. “It provides the positive perspective and support to discover each resident’s remaining abilities, engage their interests, and cultivate quality of life.”
Empowering the workforce
A key factor in evaluating providers is ensuring that staff are following best practices in memory care. Staff should be trained in delivering highly proficient direct care – able to support residents through every step of their experience of the disease and to walk the journey with them.
“At Pathways Memory Care we focus on helping staff members know the life story of each person in their care,” Tangela Manuel says. “Individuality and self-worth are discovered and honored. Staff have the knowledge and skills to find the just-right level of challenge for each resident, reducing fear and reawakening hope.”
One pioneering initiative for helping staff connect with the whole person is Music & Memory™. This transformational program offers customized music to senior care residents living with dementia challenges. Staff consult with each resident and the resident’s family to create a personalized playlist of favorite songs. Delivered on iPods and other digital devices, the tunes can spark renewed meaning and connection.
Enriching the family dynamic
Dementia is known for taking a toll on family caregivers. They typically experience a range of emotions, from stress and anger to depression and guilt. The result is often burnout, or “compassion fatigue.” Family caregivers may develop issues with their own health, from insomnia to a weakened immune system. They may also face new financial and relationship challenges. Moving a loved one into a memory care community can reset the course – and yield benefits for the entire family.
“When your loved one moves into a memory care community, you’ll likely find their quality of life improves and yours does, too,” Tangela Manuel says. “Knowing that your loved one is well taken care of, you can focus on spending time with them – no longer as a full-time caretaker, but as a supportive family member who provides company, comfort, and unconditional love.”