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The amenities found at a memory care community may not be as glamorous as those found in an independent living or assisted living community, such as an ice cream parlor or indoor swimming pool, but that is by design rather than oversight. Because research has shown that seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia can become easily stressed and disoriented, communities are designed to create a relaxing setting.

Communities typically have a secured courtyard that allows residents the opportunity to walk outside or garden without the risk of elopement. Gathering places, such as a TV lounge or library, are also common features. To create a more intimate setting for residents, a memory care community may even be designed around a neighborhood setting, with apartments clustered around shared common areas. Hallways are likely brightly colored, in a variety of colors, to assist residents in finding their way.

Apartment suites are typically available in private or companion options, with some communities offering a one-bedroom apartment floor plan. These suites won’t have the kitchenettes found in assisted living apartments and the amenities are minimal—again, in the effort to reduce stress. To assist in way finding, many communities will place a memory box filled with mementos from the resident’s life outside each apartment. [Man Gardening]

Dining rooms typically feature family-style dining so residents can gather together for mealtimes. Some memory care providers, such as Autumn Leaves, specially design menus that address the lack of appetite that can accompany Alzheimer’s and dementia. Their dining rooms feature a tropical fish tank, as studies have shown that watching fish can increase appetites, and attention is placed on creating a contrast between the food’s color and the plate so residents can better see the food.

Activities are specially designed around a resident’s past interests so residents may reconnect with their memories; art classes, music and games are usually offered, along with exercise classes. Some communities may also provide escorted outings.
As of 2014 over 5.2 million people in the United States and 26 million worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Five million of these individuals were 65 or older, and women compose most of these cases with 3.2 million compared to 1.8 million men. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. The disease destroys brain cells and symptoms can include confusion, anger, mood swings, language breakdown and long-term memory loss. Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease involves specialized services that differ from other types of senior housing.

What is the best type of care for a loved one with the disease? Alzheimer’s care is often delivered in an assisted living or nursing home setting usually in a separate floor or unit. Generally, the residents live in semi-private apartments and have structured activities delivered by staff members trained in Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Most of these living environments have secured areas to prevent wandering, a common symptom of the disease. Often, residents have access to outdoor walking paths or gardens which are within secured areas.

Stand alone memory care communities called Alzheimer’s special care units or memory care units also exist to better meet the specialized needs of residents with the disease. These memory care communities have been designed specifically for seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and often have features like a circular layout to ensure a resident won’t encounter a ‘dead-end’ in a hallway (a potential source of stress for advanced cases of Alzheimer’s).

When making a decision, it is important to ask if there is specialized care offered for residents with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

Alzheimer’s Care

  • Also Known As: Memory Care, Dementia Care

  • Payment Sources: Private Pay, Medicaid

  • Price Range: $5000 to $9000 per month

What is Alzheimer’s Care?

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Alzheimer’s and dementia are two of the common memory-loss conditions included under the umbrella of memory care. This specialized care spans a spectrum of services depending upon the severity of symptoms exhibited by an individual—from cueing to requiring a secured setting to prevent elopement.

Memory care goes beyond what is traditionally offered in an assisted living setting. Housekeeping, laundry and meal preparation services are provided but the level of assistance with activities of daily living is increased. Often the daily activities are designed specially to allow the individual to reconnect with favorite hobbies or interests.

In recognition of the unique care challenges that Alzheimer’s and dementia pose, communities may only provide memory care, or in the cases of a continuing care community, have a neighborhood solely for residents requiring memory care. Often these communities incorporate design elements that research has shown to lower stress in individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia. These elements include increased natural lighting, memory boxes outside the room and a circular neighborhood design that allows for safe wandering. Because an estimated six in 10 people with Alzheimer’s will wander, communities are designed to minimize the risk of elopement, whether employing security alarms on doors or performing more frequent safety checks.