Moving your senior loved one into Memory care is a big and often agonizing decision. Not just because it’s an emotionally charged situation – but also because there are many misconceptions floating around that shed a negative light on memory care communities.
And this makes sense – think of some of the language that people use about these types of communities. “Nursing homes.” “Facilities.” All of these phrases have negative connotations because, in the past, memory care was institutionalized and something that families tried to avoid at all costs. Thankfully, science and research has enabled us to learn more about dementia and allowed us to move past those dark days in the past. However, society still has some catching up to do when it comes to breaking down the stereotypes of what memory care is and can be.
At Avalon Memory Care, we’ve taken research-based practices and pioneered a unique model of care that’s designed to meet the Individual, specific needs of individuals living with cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Here are some of the myths and misconceptions we’ve encountered in our years of service, as well as the realities of what life is like at our communities.
Myth 1: Memory care communities are institutional-like settings.
Say the word “facility,” and you conjure up an image of white walls, tile floors and steel bed frames – in other words, a cold, sterile place. However, that’s not what you’ll find at a memory care community. There has been a lot of research done over the past decade about the importance of the environment and how it affects quality of life for those living with dementia. It should come as no surprise that researchers and experts discovered that a “facility” setting hindered rather than helped – so great strides were made to create research-based design that was tailored to the needs and well-being of residents.
Today, memory care communities are designed to be homelike settings, with easy-to-navigate hallways, community areas like dining rooms and libraries as well as private spaces for each individual resident. Staff members have been specially trained to be caring professionals who can care for the body, mind and soul of each resident. The idea of “institutionalized” care goes out the door, because the community has been designed with the understanding that dementia affects everyone differently, and care should be tailored to the individual for the best possible outcomes. Residents are treated like family members, which helps solidify the “homelike” feel and allows for the best possible care.
Myth 2: Memory care takes away my loved one’s last remaining shreds of independence.
This is a misconception that is threaded throughout all aspects of senior living. Again, back in the day, this was quite true – seniors went to live in a “home” and basically became housebound wards. Not so these days. Senior living continues to shift and evolve to provide the very best care possible for all seniors, and for those in memory care, the philosophy is “the care that’s needed to provide the most independence possible.”
In fact, many seniors with dementia end up becoming more confident and gaining more independence when they move to memory care. There are several reasons for this. First, the community itself has been designed to be safe and accessible to those with memory loss. Safety features like grab bars, easy-to-navigate walkways, wayfinding clues and emergency pull cords help residents feel more confident and enable them to do as much as they can on their own. Second, the environment and programming in a memory care community is specifically designed to help residents retain existing abilities, create meaningful friendships, have fun and enjoy life as much as possible. Staff members are trained to provide assistance when necessary while allowing residents to do as much as they can independently, and this is reflected in individual care plans. For example, one resident may not be able to dress himself, but he can eat independently at mealtimes.
Myth 3: Memory care residents are sedated.
Back in the day, medications were used to help squash any unwanted behaviors related to memory issues. Thankfully, research has helped us uncover and understand why individuals with dementia react in certain ways. Understanding the why has allowed memory care communities to develop holistic care approaches that support residents and can help provide comfort, security and stability without pharmaceutical approaches. While medications are a part of many care plans, staff members are trained to learn about each individual resident, understand their histories and triggers and use proven techniques to engage, redirect and calm when necessary.
Myth 4: Memory care residents sit in front of the TV all day.
These days, memory care residents are more active and engaged than ever. In fact, staying engaged is one of the critical elements of good dementia care. Memory care communities like Avalon provide activities, events and individual opportunities that provide whole-body wellness. Leisure and therapeutic programs enhance self-esteem, provide dignity and improve confidence while also encouraging physical fitness and reducing unwanted behaviors. An engaged resident is a happy resident – and happy residents mean a great memory care community.
Myth 4: Memory care is cookie-cutter.
One of the most beneficial parts of a memory care community – besides the peace of mind it can provide to families – is the individualized care and programs that are available. Every resident has a fluid care plan that is designed to meet their individual needs. As their needs chance and shift, so does the care plan.
Individual plans extend to more than just activities and interests. Many memory care communities, like Avalon, have third-party support systems that can be brought into the community to provide high quality care without the resident having to leave the campus. Physicians, dentists, social workers and others make “house calls” in a place that’s comfortable and familiar to the resident, which helps reduce stress and improves outcomes.
Moving your loved one to a memory care community can often be the kindest and best gift you can give them during their dementia journey. Avalon Memory Care focuses on providing the highest quality of life for our residents through our compassionate, individualized care system. We believe it is an honor to serve you and your loved one throughout this time, and our goal is to provide daily joys and happiness with the support, dignity and compassion your loved one deserves.