Many of us have been touched by Alzheimer's disease or dementia through the diagnosis of a loved family member or friend. As the condition progresses, your treasured one will need round-the-clock care, which may necessitate moving into a senior living center.
My personal experience started when my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in the 1990s. It was hard to watch the effects of the condition slowly take away her independence as she moved further along into her Alzheimer's journey.
Although it was a painful time for my family, I wanted to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and dove into research to absorb as much information as I could. Little did I know that my passion to deeply understand the condition to help care for my grandmother would dramatically alter the course of my life.
Grandma passed away from Alzheimer's disease while I was still in college. Although I did everything I could to make her feel loved and cared for during her final years, I knew moving forward that I could ease the burden of other patients and their families by helping them get the support they need.
Part of what I do now is give presentations about Alzheimer's disease to families with an affected elderly loved one. I served as a resource for information and a beacon of comfort to people who need to know what options are available for proper health care. Although a cure hasn't yet been developed, medical researchers hope to find an answer that can help reduce the number of diagnoses in the coming years.
In the meantime, how can families support a loved one with Alzheimer's disease or dementia?
Many people explore one option: having the person live with them, especially if it's a loved parent, grandparent, or relative. However, as well-intentioned as this effort is, looking after someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is a 24-hour job with significant demands and responsibilities. Not everyone has the required time, resources, or skill set to perform the duties necessary to provide quality home care.
Complicating matters is the lack of a cure for this degenerative condition that can be slowed but not reversed. Alzheimer's isn't like other diseases where you may be able to nurse the patient back to health. Going through the various stages of this condition can take years – with no chance of improvement.
As a senior living professional, I often tell families that there's no shame in searching for out-of-home care options for someone who can no longer live independently. In fact, it's one of the best decisions they can make to ensure that their family member gets the best care possible.
The safest place for people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia is in senior assisted living that can provide the necessary support while giving them excellent quality of life.
In senior living communities, assisted living for Alzheimer's disease or dementia is called memory care. These 24-hour supervised communities have a higher staff-to-patient to provide an increased level of specialized attention and care.
Here are the specific supports available at memory care centers:
1. Specialized medical care
The nurses and nursing assistants at memory living centers are specially trained to work with people who have Alzheimer's disease or dementia. Their services go beyond standard health care to provide the necessary level of attention your loved one needs to continue to enjoy life to the fullest.
2. 24-hour care
Memory care staff is on-duty around the clock with low staff-to-resident ratios to ensure proper care at any time of day or night. Whether your loved one needs help facing specific dementia-related challenges with swallowing, wandering, anxiety, and more, support is never far away.
3. Enhanced security
Senior living communities take away the risk of dementia wandering. Tools used to keep residents secure are door alarms, motion-sensor lights, and tracking bracelets that alert the staff if a resident walks too close to an exit. There are also regular checks to make sure everyone is accounted for. Entry into the community is secured by a code that allows access only to authorized personnel.
4. Intuitively-designed suites
Resident units are designed intuitively to prevent confusion when the person is navigating, even in low-light conditions. They're also outfitted with emergency call systems in case the resident needs assistance. In most cases, units don't have kitchenettes for improved safety.
5. Cognitive treatments
Assisted living centers provide cognitive therapies that stimulate the different parts of the brain to slow the disease's progression. These treatments are tailored to an individual's abilities so that everyone can participate and no one gets left out.
6. Engaging, specially-designed activities
Memory care communities focus on providing entertaining activities customized to the unique needs of people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia. For example, music therapy plays an essential role in helping your loved one feel joy and happiness.
7. Healthy, nutritious food
Memory care communities offer diverse menu selections that cater to every dietary need and preference. Meal choices also include finger food to make self-feeding easier and ensure people get enough calories for their individual needs.
8. Support counseling
The transition to memory care can also be hard on the new resident's family. Many communities offer support groups for families to share stories and find solutions from people who have been there.
Memory care communities prioritize enabling the resident to live as independently as possible for as long as possible. Many families have noticed that this approach, when combined with the support and therapies available, has slowed the progression of their loved one's Alzheimer's disease or dementia. They also see positive changes in mood and a renewed love of life.
It all adds up to a better quality of life for their loved ones and their families.
However, it's not an easy step to make. With so many senior living options available in the Portland, Maine area, how will you know you're making the most informed choice for your family member?
When you need help selecting a senior living community, talk to Assisted Living Locators of Portland, Maine. We specialize in connecting seniors and their families with senior living options that best suit their needs and budget. Our team will ensure that all of your questions are answered and that you have all the information you need to make the most informed decision.
I only wanted the best for my grandmother. I know you want the best for your elderly loved one too. Together, we'll make sure they get it.