Christina Candido, Assistant Administrator at CareOne at The Cupola, has provided the most frequently asked questions, as well as their answers, in regard to care for senior citizens dealing with memory care and dementia.
1. What is the difference between “memory care” and regular assisted living?
There seems to be a certain stigma on memory care and the type of resident it caters to. I often have family members tell me their loved one is not appropriate for memory care because they’re more physically healthy and capable, with needs related specifically to their cognitive impairment. It’s essential to keep in mind, however, that memory care has nothing to do with physical ability. Just as in assisted living, MC can provide as much or as little assistance as one needs; aides are able to help residents shower, get dressed, go to the bathroom, etc. should they need it, though visitors are surprised to find that many residents often don’t! What they do require is a smaller, more intimate environment that caters to their cognitive needs. MC sections of communities are more home-like, featuring kitchen-style dining rooms as opposed to restaurant ones and familiar family rooms and nooks. There are more prompts and reminders than in regular AL, and programs are designed for the cognitively impaired: you’ll find more things like reminiscence therapy and tactile activities that engage all five senses. In addition, they’re usual “secure,” which means you need a code to enter and exit. This does NOT imply that residents are cooped up 24 hours a day, seven days a week – it’s actually quite the contrary! MC sections often have their own enclosed outdoor space, as well as frequent trips off-site and a lot of inclusive activities with their AL neighbors.
2. What is the difference between forgetfulness/normal aging and dementia?
It is not uncommon for the elderly to experience “normal”, age-related changes as they get older. For instance, they may become slightly more forgetful or begin to misplace things. They may find it increasingly difficult to drive at night (due to vision changes) or notice more aches and pains than they’d been accustomed to. While disheartening, such experiences will not necessarily be so detrimental that they call for huge adjustments. Dementia symptoms, on the other hand, involve impairments that are so severe they disrupt daily life. They affect not only memory, but also additional brain functions like understanding written and/or spoken language (as well as communicating) and the ability to plan, reason, problem solve, and focus on a specific task.
3. How quickly will my loved one transition when they move into a memory care community?
This is a tough one, as there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all when it comes to transitions. As a rule, I generally tell family members to expect the first 2-4 weeks to be the most difficult (for all!). Imagine living in the same home for -most likely- more than half of your life, then being uprooted and having to adjust to an entirely new environment with brand new faces. Whether dementia is present or not, that huge of a move would pull the rug out from underneath anyone! It will take some time to settle in, fall into comfortable routines, and get to know each other. Just remember that we all move at a different pace!