What is Memory Care?
When you ask this question you get a range of answers. You hear Memory Care is a specialized unit for Alzheimer’s & Dementia. You also hear it is a lock down unit that is separate from the rest of the community. You hear it is a unit for wanderers. You hear Memory Care is somewhere where specialized care is provided.
What is the Answer?
Depends who is answering. Technically a Memory Care Community or a Memory Care Section is where care is provided to those who exhibit symptoms and/or behaviors related to Alzheimer’s or one of the many Dementia Types. The thing is these symptoms and behaviors are vast and vary to different degrees, effect people in different combinations.
Every community claims that their memory care offers care based on each person’s ability. How is it possible to offer this type of individualized care in a unit where you have residents that are very active physically, residents who are wheelchair bound and have lost their ability to speak, residents that are prone to outbursts or inappropriate behavior?
You can’t. Unless you have a private caretaker or an activity coordinator for each group of individuals you are not able to provide individualized care and engagement because the abilities of the residents with Alzheimer’s or Dementia vary to such a large degree.
The Real Answer?
A Community has to be able to offer 3-4 levels (sections) of secure care for memory support. One of the sections should include the high functioning resident that is prone to wondering, and has an extroverted type of personality. One section should include high functioning residents that need memory support that are not prone to wondering and also have introverted personalities. Another section should be for those residents in the severe stage of Dementia, who have lost most of their language abilities, as well as independent movement. These residents will also likely need specialized diets, and nutrition therapy. The abilities of these residents are the most diminished of the 3 groups and their care and activities are set up accordingly.
The Take Away….
Although there may be a desire to provide individual care and engagement, that desire is not enough if the environment is not conducive to make that happen. Because the symptoms and behaviors of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia vary so greatly, it is imperative to separate residents within the community into smaller groups based on their cognitive and physical abilities. Once this is accomplished, a community is able to create the environment, the care structure, and an engagement plan to meet the need of the residents in each section or group.