An Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis is heartbreaking for both the patient and their loved ones. It’s a confirmation that life is going to change in expected, unexpected and irreversible ways. It’s unsettling and frightening. And as the condition progresses, most individuals are going to require special assistance within their home or a memory support residence.
If you are seeking memory support options outside of the home, you’ll want to make sure best practices are observed. Some are obvious, and others are not. What follows is guidance on how to evaluate memory support residences provided by Vanessa Canez and Amy Lloyd at Cascades of Tucson. Both are certified memory support professionals with decades of experience helping patients and families understand the care and compassion required to address the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
No one experiences or progresses through dementia or Alzheimer’s the same way. And while life changes, the need for human connection, joy and respect do not. A great memory support residence is focused on understanding everything there is to know about an individual’s history, current condition, and evolving needs and preferences. This includes gathering information about former professions, hobbies, religious preferences, traditions, childhood, family and favorite foods.
The information guides everything from how to decorate a room, to creating enjoyable routines, to selecting meal options. In doing so, a loved one is comforted, connected to their former lives and supported as their needs change.
When it comes to social versus solitary activities, variety is important. While some residents may enjoy “mocktails” with friends at afternoon happy hours, others may prefer sitting quietly on the garden patio. Enjoyable individual activities that support brain health include reading, baking, puzzles, cards, sorting games, online memory programs, crocheting, and drawing. Social activities can include fitness classes, movies, and musical performances, as well as field trips to museums, the zoo, and local parks.
Dining should remain one of life’s greatest joys — from the social aspects of dining to the satisfaction of delicious, beautifully prepared foods.
Check out the dining area. Try the food. See how the residence addresses the needs of individuals who have difficulty manipulating utensils or chewing and digesting traditionally prepared meals. The approach should be dignified and promote self-reliance. Whether prepared traditionally or as finger food, meals should be nothing short of satisfying and nutritious.
A memory support residence should have standard safety amenities like handrails in the hallways, grab bars in the bathrooms, easy to access call buttons, secured exterior doors, yet much more.
Memory impairment, among other things, affects spatial relationships, visual perceptions, and balance. Here are some things that will indicate whether or not a residence has a physical environment that reduces accidents and anxiety.
Beyond the physical environment, wheelchairs and walkers should be routinely cleaned and inspected for safety, there must be a nurse on call 24/7 and all staff members should be trained specifically for memory care.
The best memory care professionals are not just highly trained. They are also genuinely patient, big-hearted and positive. When touring a residence, look around and see if caregivers are attentive, engaging and kind in their interactions. Also, do the residents appear at ease, happy and involved in something enjoyable? What you do not want to see is a resident who looks worried, frightened, bored or lonely.
Another way to “monitor the love,” is to ask how the residence works with families. As a family member, you are experiencing loss and are on an uncharted path. A great memory support residence will have open communication with family members, seek their insight, provide educational and emotional-support resources and more. There also will be generous visitation. In short, family members should be treated with compassion.
If you are looking for a memory support residence, do your homework and ultimately trust your gut. Only you know what’s right for you or a loved one.