Aging brings about many changes, including some that can compromise a person’s ability to remain independent.
In such instances, families often consider assisted living facilities for their loved ones.
More than 1 million Americans currently live in assisted living facilities, according to the National Center for Assisted Living. However, residents dealing with Alzheimer's disease, other forms of dementia or memory problems might need particular services. Memory care units are specifically designed to assist people with dementia or other memory issues.
Memory care – also called special care -- is a distinct form of care. Memory care facilities offer 24-hour supervised care, which is often provided in a separate wing, floor or building of a residential care facility or senior living community.
Memory care facilities aim to offer a safe, secure environment for residents, so they usually have limited access to other areas of the facility. That is especially important for those who have trouble navigating or remembering where they are. The Alzheimer's Association notes that six in 10 people with dementia tend to wander and become disoriented. To prevent wandering, which can be dangerous, memory care units often have alarms and “wander guard” protections in place to keep residents from roaming unsupervised.
Another goal of memory care is to provide a stress-free, structured lifestyle with set schedules and routines. Structure helps minimize distress and makes residents more comfortable and content.
Memory care units offer programs that can slow the progression of dementia and cultivate cognitive skills. Fitness classes, games, specialty food programs and other activities help residents maintain a good quality of life. Such facilities also should feature common spaces for socialization and meals. All of those things engage residents, awaken their senses and help them use their memories to the extent that they can.
Families considering assisted living or memory care should inquire about the capabilities and staffing of a facility if a loved one requires that environment or if they think a loved one might need services in the future.