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Dementia Patients: Care Options


Choosing a long-term residential care option is typically straightforward for most elderly people. However, the process is considerably more complex for dementia patients, due to the unique challenges they face. Dementia, which is caused by various diseases and injuries that impair the brain, has Alzheimer’s disease as its most prevalent form, representing 60-70% of dementia cases. Dementia is not only the seventh leading cause of death globally but also a significant reason for disability and dependency among older individuals, emphasizing the need for specialized care and consideration in selecting facilities for dementia patients.

Start With a Needs Assessment to Determine the Right Senior Living Option

A needs assessment conducted by a knowledgeable professional is usually the first step in determining the right senior living option for a loved one with dementia. Assessments focus on developing a deeper understanding of a senior’s cognitive condition as it relates to their ability to complete activities of daily living (ADLs) with or without partial or total assistance.

Assisted Living Locators’ certified dementia care advisors provide an in-depth assessment of all the client’s needs, along with thoughtful analysis and recommendations for best-fit care options. Families can begin their assessment process with an easy-to-use online tool on the Assisted Living Locators website. This is followed up with a virtual in-take interview by phone or video call.

Senior Living Options for Dementia Patients

If you’re caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia, it’s important to understand long-term care options and carefully evaluate them. The type of care needed will likely change over time as the disease progresses. Understanding the general care levels for senior living options will help you match your loved one’s needs with the right level of care.

Independent Living Communities

This level of senior living is only intended for residents who are still capable of what the name implies: living independently. No assistance with ADLs is provided, but meals, housekeeping, social and recreational opportunities, and private, low-maintenance living arrangements are included. Only self-sufficient seniors in the earliest stages of dementia can reside in independent living, and, because of this, a dementia patient’s stay in this setting is not likely to last.

This arrangement usually lasts longer when a couple moves into independent living together and the healthy spouse is present to help support and supervise their partner. When they require a higher level of care, the next step is usually moving to an assisted living facility.

Assisted Living

Assisted living facilities offer an intermediate level of care that provides residents with hands-on assistance with activities of daily living. Many facilities also offer a wide array of add-on care services at additional cost. Skilled nursing care, however, is NOT provided. Dementia patients in the mild to moderate stages often spend the most time in this setting. The daily personal care allows them to maintain their health and safety and retain some of their independence.

Assisted living facility rooms are still private and the care the staff provides is not intended to be one on one. However, if a resident has an emergency, staff members are available to help 24/7. If the resident constantly requires assistance, it usually indicates that it’s time to move to the next level of senior living. Persistent falls and troublesome dementia behaviors like wandering and outbursts are the most common instigating factors for the move to a higher level of care.

Memory Care

A dementia patient’s next move may be to a memory care unit. Memory care is designed to meet the needs of individuals that have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and is provided in a secured environment by specially trained staff in a private room and shared communal area. Here’s a breakdown of what memory care typically includes based on the aspects you’ve mentioned:

  • 24-Hour Supervised Care: Memory care facilities offer around-the-clock supervision to ensure the safety and well-being of residents. This continuous monitoring helps prevent wandering, a common issue among individuals with dementia, and addresses any immediate needs or emergencies that may arise.
  • Medical Monitoring and Medication Management: Residents receive regular medical check-ups and monitoring to manage their health conditions effectively. Staff are responsible for administering medications and ensuring that residents take the correct dosages at the right time to manage their symptoms and any co-existing medical conditions.
  • Environment That Is Easy for Residents to Navigate: Memory care facilities are designed with safety and ease of navigation in mind. This can include secure and simple layouts to minimize confusion, the use of colors and cues to help with orientation, and the elimination of safety hazards to reduce the risk of falls and injuries.
  • Skilled Staff Trained to Assist Those with Dementia or Impaired Cognitive Abilities: Staff members in memory care facilities receive specialized training to understand the unique needs of individuals with cognitive impairments. This training includes strategies for communication, behavior management, and providing compassionate care tailored to each resident’s needs.
  • Assistance with Bathing, Dressing, Toileting, and Grooming: Memory care provides personal care support to help residents with daily living activities. This assistance ensures that residents maintain their hygiene and dignity, which can become challenging as dementia progresses.
  • Activities Geared Toward Their Cognitive Abilities: Memory care facilities offer therapeutic activities designed to stimulate cognitive function, promote social interaction, and enhance the quality of life. These activities are tailored to the cognitive levels of the residents and can include music therapy, art, physical exercise, and games that support memory and cognitive skills.
  • Three Meals a Day and Frequent Snacks: Nutritional needs are carefully managed with the provision of balanced meals and snacks throughout the day. Dietary preferences and restrictions are accommodated, and meals are often used as opportunities for social interaction and engagement.

Planning Ahead for Senior Living is Best

Reaching out for assistance can significantly reduce the physical and emotional strains associated with caregiving. Starting your exploration of available options sooner rather than later is beneficial. Early planning provides ample opportunity to thoroughly research community resources and understand the associated costs, enabling more informed and less pressured decisions.

Assisted Living Locators is a free placement and referral service with a nationwide network of local senior care advisors that are dementia care certified. We are your partner in finding the right senior living option.

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