Why Memory Care Matters
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Keys to Helping Seniors with Dementia Live a More Enriched Life
The term dementia refers to an impaired ability to remember, think or make decisions—one that naturally interferes with a person’s capacity to perform everyday activities. The most common type of dementia is a product of Alzheimer’s disease, which is estimated to affect approximately 5.6 million people (and rising) aged 65 and older in the United States. So while dementia is not considered a “normal” part of aging, it remains a very real and prevalent challenge for millions of seniors across the country.
As families come to terms with the reality that an aging loved one may be developing Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia, they are confronted with a complex and often overwhelming series of concerns, worries and stress factors. The responsibility of caring for someone with a progressive neurodegenerative condition is daunting, even for those who are familiar with senior caregiving needs. The nuances of memory loss are not easily managed by the average family member or caregiver, and can ultimately take a major toll on both the senior experiencing dementia and their support system.
Seniors living with dementia can live an enriched life full of comfort, connection and purpose. Many families turn to the unmatched support of a memory care community to help their loved one achieve just that. To shed greater light on how this specialized form of care can dramatically improve quality of life for a senior diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, following are some valuable insights into the world of memory care—and why it matters.
Prioritizing Safety & Security
Alzheimer’s disease or dementia often diminishes a senior’s ability to recognize familiar people and places, which is why it is so common for these individuals to wander, become lost or get confused about their whereabouts. Unfortunately, this can happen at any stage of dementia. A senior who wanders or easily loses their sense of direction is at major risk of ending up missing or hurt. It’s a potentially life-threatening reality for those living with neurodegeneration, and an extremely scary proposition for their loved ones.
Additional dangers for seniors faced with dementia include those related to driving, balance, use of kitchen appliances and other home hazards, to name a few. There’s a revolving list of potential threats that can jeopardize the safety of a loved one if these risks are not fully mitigated through a dynamic support system.
Quality memory care communities give seniors and their families priceless peace of mind surrounding these issues. In UMH’s Lifestyle Transitions Neighborhood at Wesley Village, for example, residents benefit from a wander-protection system that offers safety 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are also personalized assisted living and memory support services provided by a dedicated nursing team, consistent caregivers trained by the Alzheimer’s Association, and a state-of-the-art 24-hour emergency call system. With services related to dining, transportation and other household needs, our memory care team can minimize hazards for residents and enable families to feel confident in their loved one’s ongoing safety.
Managing Medication & Physical Health
One of the most prominent challenges for seniors living with Alzheimer’s or dementia is consistently remembering to take their medication—in the exact prescribed dosages and at the correct times. Depending on the person’s individual health needs, there may be a number of different medications to manage, with quantities and/or physician directives changing as the senior’s circumstances change. Ultimately, this process can become an overwhelming one, though handling it properly is critical to a senior’s overall health and well-being.
It is also common for seniors living with dementia to be confronted with coexisting medical conditions as they continue to age. Some of the most common include heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease, among others. A loved one might be simultaneously treated for mental and behavioral problems such as anxiety, depression, sleeping difficulties and aggression. They may even become limited in mobility or require assistance with activities of daily living. Regardless of the specific medical, physical or mental issues at hand, all of them must be considered in the context of the senior’s overall care plan.
This is why quality memory care communities for seniors integrate an array of services and touch points to meet the health and medication needs of each resident. At Lifestyle Transitions, we have the methods, means and expertise to fully address medication management, provide skilled nursing care and behavioral support when necessary, and assist with personal care.
Residents at Lifestyle Transitions have access to health and wellness services across our Wesley Village campus, to allow for ease of transition as care needs emerge and change. These include but are not limited to on-site geriatric physicians and APRN, on-site mental health professionals (social workers, psychiatric APRNs and psychologists), podiatry and hearing services, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, massage therapy, blood pressure clinics, short-term rehabilitation and long-term care, as well as palliative rehabilitation and hospice care. This combination of offerings makes for memory care that is especially comprehensive, allowing residents and their families unparalleled peace of mind.
Catering to Cognition
As seniors living with dementia age, it is natural for cognitive ability to decline. Even so, this process can be slowed through the exercise of one’s brain muscle. There are lots of ways to keep a senior’s brain active, and a combination of approaches is often the most successful. That means fostering plenty of opportunities for them to stay physically active, mentally engaged and socially connected. Here’s why:
- Physical exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, which means that brain cells receive all the oxygen and nutrients they need to stay healthy. Many older people turn away from exercise because they have physical aches or pains, but there are exercises suitable for older people, such as yoga, tai chi and walking.
- Mentally stimulating activities such as puzzles, games and educational classes give the brain a workout. Research suggests that the more an area of the brain is used, the harder the body works to keep the neurons in that brain region healthy and connected.
- Staying connected is extremely important, as socializing helps to exercise areas of the brain associated with speech, emotion and memory.
Unfortunately, many seniors living with dementia who reside at home don’t have enough access to these forms of exercise, connections and stimulation, even if their loved ones are doing the best they can to provide a high level of care. There’s simply no substitute for the kind of interaction and promotion of physical, mental and social activities that can be found at a quality memory care community.
At UMH, we offer activity programs seven days a week, with ample opportunities for—and assistance with—physical fitness classes, music and memory activities, social outings, spiritual outlets and so much more. These are invaluable to preserving a loved one’s cognitive abilities as they live with dementia.
Infusing a Sense of Community
Studies in social neuroscience indicate that social contact is an even more powerful predictor of health and longevity than physical exercise or even whether or not a person smokes. In fact, people with active, in-person social lives have a 2- to 15-year lifespan advantage. What’s even more illuminating for seniors living with dementia or Alzeheimer’s disease is that the human connection piece is also a powerful biological indicator of how well people can think, remember facts and mitigate brain ailments.
Therefore, the role community plays in the life of a senior living with dementia is undeniably profound. And one of the most effective ways to foster and sustain that valuable connection is through residence at a memory care community. Living amongst such a supportive “village” of people infuses a crucial sense of community that enables seniors with dementia to actually thrive. From neighbors and friends to staff and volunteers, there’s immense opportunity for human contact on a range of levels. It’s the place where seniors can garner a feeling of belonging and comfort simply by living among other residents and interacting with the people around them.
This is a stark contrast to seniors who live at home, feeling lonely and waiting around for busy friends and family to call or visit. And if they are limited in mobility or otherwise unable to get out and meet new people, there’s a serious risk of mental and physical decline. It’s just not as easy to nurture friendships, make connections and connect to the community, which can create a perfect storm for isolation, depression and a severely diminished quality of life.
With residents of a memory care community coming together to share common interests, they are more inclined to feel a sense of family, friendship and overall togetherness. The planned activities and opportunities for socialization help to relieve boredom and loneliness, and each interactive event builds on relationships and deepens friendships. Closer relationships are formed in this type of communal setting with ongoing reasons to gather and enjoy people’s company.
Integrating Empathy and Compassion
The path for seniors managing with the reality of dementia is never an easy one. In actuality, it’s often fraught with fear and frustration. But that doesn’t mean this population can’t live a full and meaningful life—especially when supported by compassionate caregivers who understand the disease process. Quality memory care communities understand this fact and do everything in their power to support residents emotionally. They are well trained to navigate the complexities of neurodegeneration with a human-centered approach. Especially in a senior’s most difficult moments, they work to promote dignity, respect and empathy.
All of this is achieved through individualized care plans and attention to each person’s unique personality and needs. Memory care staff work with residents and their families to understand these needs, create a rhythm to the day and help alleviate some of the stress felt by those living with memory decline.
These types of communities also have a deep appreciation for the fact that regardless of a loved one’s changing situation and residence, the primary caregiver and/or family will retain an important role in their life, particularly as that of advocate. Therefore, staff members interact with caregivers to ensure they feel comfortable with the type and level of care their loved one receives.
Every personnel touch point, from the administration and nursing team to the dining and recreation professionals, is focused on cultivating warm connections, forging strong relationships and eliciting trust. This translates to the kind of environment that maximizes a senior’s ability to live the most enriched life possible, even as they face the ongoing challenges of dementia.
If your loved one has been living with the onset or progression of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, one of the best things you can do is look into the memory care opportunities available in your community. Speak with the staff, have your questions answered and tour the properties to get a firsthand experience of the ways a memory care community can positively impact quality of life for your aging loved one.
Lifestyle Transitions—located on UMH’s Wesley Village Campus and within our Wesley Heights Assisted Living Community in Shelton, CT—is a unique program that offers a supportive environment for individuals with changing care needs. It is designed to support residents with cognitive impairment and increased social needs by engaging them in life and activities within the Lifestyle Transitions neighborhood as well as the larger Wesley Heights community. We work to provide encouragement, friendship, a feeling of security and maximized independence, all while developing daily routines for successfully managing individual physical, social and cognitive challenges.
Our mission to provide relationship-centered care inspires our team to get to know our residents on a personal level, allowing us the opportunity to learn and meet their specific needs. Our goal is to help residents maintain a healthy lifestyle, encourage socialization with peers as well as relationships with our team, and manage individual requirements. Residents, their families and our nursing team work together to create specialized assisted living and memory care packages that meet evolving needs.
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