What is Memory Care? Part II: 4 Key Questions to Ask When Looking for a Memory Care Facility

mom and daughter together discussing what is memory care

Making the decision to place your loved one in a memory care facility can be difficult, emotional, and overwhelming.

Perhaps you can no longer be the sole caretaker. Maybe it’s because you know that there are options that will provide a better quality of life.

Whatever the reason, finding a caring, home-like community that will treat your loved one like their own is no easy task. As you’re looking at memory care facility options, here are four key questions to ask.

1. Are there activities geared specifically towards memory care residents?

Activity programs within memory care communities vary widely. Look for communities that offer a wide range of activities such as music therapy, arts and crafts or scenic rides. Active memory care communities tailor their programs to meet the individual needs of residents, enabling them to live each day to the fullest. Whether enjoying music from childhood, going out to lunch with a group of fellow residents or baking bread with staff, there should be a variety of 1:1 and group activities.

2. What kind of dining support is provided?

Alzheimer’s and dementia can affect both appetite and the ability to eat independently. When visiting memory care communities, ask if staff receive specialized training and how staff support residents at mealtime? For example, if a resident is having a difficult time eating, will the staff member take over feeding the resident?  Or, will they assist them by placing their hand under the resident’s arm and moving the utensil to the resident’s mouth? Encouragement to maintain as much independence as possible is key to delaying the progression of memory impairment diseases. 

3. Is the community equipped to handle changes in a resident’s schedule?

Communities take different approaches to assisting memory care residents with their schedules. The key is to learn if they have a uniform or customized approach. For example, if your loved one used to work night shifts and slept all day, will the community encourage this familiar schedule or will they attempt to conform their schedule to that of other residents?

Look for a community where staff interact with your loved one at any time day or night. If your loved one is awake at night, are there activities to occupy their time? If so, what kind? Whether setting the tables for breakfast, playing cards or doing arts and crafts, a memory care community should have plenty to offer night owls. 

4. Do staff receive specialized training?

Some memory care communities offer specialized training that helps staff better understand cognitive diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. It often includes instructions on how caregivers can handle challenging situations (like wandering or agitation) as well as understanding the progression of different memory impairment diseases.  Some communities believe in validation techniques that encourage and support residents even if they think it is 1950 again.  Others prefer to redirect and re-orient residents with this type of confusion.  Knowing how care staff will handle situations like this can help you assess if their approach aligns with the strategies you have used to support your loved one. 

Memory Care at Highgate

Highgate Senior Living is a leading memory care provider, with locations in Arizona, Montana, and Washington that provide memory care. A community in Temecula, California is also scheduled to open in the late summer of 2017. 

At Highgate, care partners participate in training that includes simulations, which help them understand what it’s like to be in their residents’ shoes. For example, a care partner may wear impairment glasses that mimic posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), a form of dementia that affects how individuals process what they see.  Staff also work with the same residents throughout the week, allowing them to get to know the residents on a personal level, and to provide a continuity of care through consistent care staffing.  Care team members receive thorough training on using a positive approach to care, a program designed by Teepa Snow, renowned dementia expert. 

Memory care at Highgate includes a flexible, resident-driven schedules, and support for residents that allows for as much independence as possible. 

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