Skip to main content
seniors painting

“Memory Care”: An Option for People Living with Dementia

By Carol Church, Writer, Family Album
Reviewed by Linda Bobroff, PhD, RD, LD/N, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida
This post is in honor of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.

More and more of my friends are beginning to face difficult situations with aging parents who have developed dementia. In some cases, the adult children have become caregivers. In others, it has become necessary to place the parent in assisted living or nursing care. And for some people, the need for additional care is on the horizon, but not yet pressing; in such cases, family members are usually wondering how quickly things will progress, and researching options and alternatives.

Need for Dementia Care is Growing

This conversation is poised to become a national one. One in four Americans will be over 65 by 2050. At that point, the number of people living with Alzheimer’s is anticipated to be three times what it is now. Fortunately, a lot of attention is now being paid to how to best care for elders who are living with this devastating disease. One relatively new option is so-called “memory care”—specialized facilities or wings of facilities designed solely for people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

What is Memory Care?

Memory care facilities offer services typical of other assisted living facilities, such as private or semi-private rooms, meals, laundry, housekeeping, 24-hour staffing, and assistance with medications (though these are not medical nursing homes). Due to the special needs of their residents, memory care facilities are likely to have unique features to accommodate these needs that are not usually found in other facilities.

For instance, they may offer stations that engage residents in familiar and comforting activities like laundry folding or other domestic tasks. They might have “Snoezelen” rooms, which offer soothing colors, comfortable and cozy seating, and relaxing sounds and scents. (“Snoezelen” is a Dutch term that combines the words for “exploration” and “doze.”) Residents in some facilities might be able to go to so-called reminiscence therapy, where a staff member guides them in a discussion about their past (such as “How was laundry done when you were a child?”). These activities may include music or images from days gone by.

The physical layout and design of these facilities often are customized for dementia patients, with cues to help them remember where their rooms are and hall designs that prevent wandering and keep residents secure. Staff are specially trained in aiding and assisting dementia patients. Special attention is given to defusing agitation and helping with basic daily activities.

Research Your Options

Memory care is expensive, and the decision to place a loved one into a facility is never easy. Families should also know that there are, as yet, no national laws governing this type of facility, though some states have laws regulating them. If you’re considering a memory care facility, take a look at this article from Caring.com and this article from Alzheimers.net to see what questions to ask. The resources in Further Reading will also help you learn more about memory care.

(Photo credit: Sophia Helping Seniors Paint by Ann. CC BY 2.0. Cropped.)

Further Reading: 

What is Alzheimer’s Memory Care?–from A Place for Mom

Memory Care–from Caring.com

Finding the Best Memory Care Facility–from Senior Living

Assisted Living vs. Memory Care--from A Place for Mom

Choosing a Memory Care Facility–from Caring.com

References:

Aplaceformom. (n.d.) What is memory care? Retrieved from http://www.aplaceformom.com/alzheimers-care 

Aplaceformom. (n.d.) Assisted living vs. memory care. Retrieved from http://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/2013-3-4-assisted-living-vs-memory-care

Kempston, M. (n.d.) Memory Care Checklist: What to Look for, What to Ask. Retrieved from https://www.caring.com/articles/checklist-choosing-memory-care-facility

Senior Living. (2011). Finding the best memory care facility. Retrieved from http://www.seniorliving.org/lifestyles/memory-care/

Watson, K. E. Reminiscence therapy benefits residents. Retrieved from http://www.providermagazine.com/archives/archives-2011/Pages/0611/Reminiscence%20Therapy%20Benefits%20LTC%20Residents.aspx