When it comes to dementia care, there are many options available. Some family members find they’re able to provide Alzheimer’s care themselves or with one-to-one hired caregivers at home. Others choose a Maryland assisted living facility when they don’t have the time, ability or financial means to provide ongoing care at home. If you decide it’s time to consider a move to a senior living community, it’s important to learn about facilities that provide integrated memory care within the larger community rather than just touring facilities offering restricted memory care units.
Integrated Memory Care at Home
When living at home, it’s possible for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia to be highly integrated into families and social circles even as they develop cognitive limitations.
Think for a moment about how things were at the beginning of your loved one’s dementia. Memory changes were starting to be noticeable, and it was clear that some extra help was needed. You may have heard the same story repeated a few times or seen your loved one become a bit mixed-up about the day. However, they were still able to participate in a variety of day-to-day activities, just with a little more supervision.
Even when there are obvious changes in functioning, individuals with dementia who live at home are generally still talking to neighbors and shopkeepers, interacting with family of all ages, keeping up with friends and sometimes going to church or out to eat. Families don’t keep their loved ones hidden in a separate room or only have them socialize with other individuals with dementia. There are many interactions with others who have normal cognitive function in typical everyday social settings.
These types of familiar, structured social interactions help individuals with dementia stay engaged and part of life, and they also help slow cognitive decline. Opportunities to be part of a social group, rather than isolated, and to be treated like a person, rather than a patient, are key to maintaining the highest possible level of brain functioning.
Individuals with dementia tend to do well in consistent, homelike environments. Being in their own home or living with family, seeing their neighbors and being included in family events and activities with individuals of all ages is cognitively stimulating, and ideally, it should happen whenever possible. However, this isn’t always feasible. When dementia progresses to the point that it can’t be managed at home, it’s important to explore all the options for memory care.
Restrictive Memory Care
At larger assisted living facilities, individuals who develop any level of cognitive difficulty are told that they must move into memory care units rather than being able to stay in the mainstream assisted living. They’re lumped together in a one-size-fits-all model that often has individuals with mild or moderate confusion mixed in with others who have severe behavioral disturbances. These units can be quite distressing to individuals with less severe symptoms who don’t understand the disruptive behavior of others.
Restrictive memory care units can often be a black box to families. They often have more limited visiting hours, and since there are no cognitively intact residents on the scene, there’s no one to speak up if there are issues with care or the facility. Families can be left in the dark.
Restrictive memory care units are significantly more expensive than standard assisted living rates. Families are often dismayed when, after moving in and being given a standard assisted living rate, they’re quickly told that memory care is now needed, their loved one needs to be moved immediately and the rate will now be much higher.
Integrated Memory Care
At Bel Air Assisted Living, we don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to dementia. We recognize that every individual with dementia is different. Each senior has unique challenges, but they also have unique gifts to share with the group. Our team is committed to keeping individuals with dementia within the mainstream of care rather than isolated from others. The focus of our integrated memory care program is on helping individuals function at their highest level of independence, in the least restrictive environment possible, to achieve their best quality of life.
Here are some of the advantages of integrated memory care:
Research indicates that social isolation can worsen the course of dementia. Within the integrated memory care program at Bel Air Assisted Living, individuals with dementia are able to attend meals and many activities side by side with other residents who don’t have cognitive challenges, just as they did at home with their friends and families. If a husband and wife are staying with us as residents, they can be together, even if one has dementia and the other does not. Friendships that are made between residents don’t need to be broken just because one begins to develop memory problems.
At Bel Air, our residents with Alzheimer’s are a part of the whole group, with a goal of inclusion when possible with appropriate support from staff. If a particular larger group activity doesn’t work for a resident, then our nurse, care staff and activities team work together to supplement the community experience with small groups or one-on-one time. This way, each resident has an enriching and cognitively challenging experience.
Our friendly team can also help seniors with dementia use the electronics and other amenities in their room. Let us know if your loved one enjoys watching a favorite show each night or listening to music before bed. We can help get everything set up so your senior can enjoy their usual routine.
Around-the-Clock Visitation Hours
Some memory care facilities have set visitation hours, making it difficult to keep in touch with your loved one. Our assisted living community offers 24/7 visitation, so you can stop by anytime that suits your schedule. This makes it easy to keep in contact with the special senior in your life, and it also provides peace of mind for caretakers.
Families are welcome to visit and check in on their loved ones at any time. In addition, cognitively intact residents can look out for the interests of their co-residents with dementia and speak up if anything seems awry. This can bring families an added level of confidence about the care provided by the facility.
If any of our residents with dementia begin to experience behavioral disturbances, we work as a team with the resident and their family plus doctors, nurses, care providers and behavioral health specialists to solve the problem. In our experience, behavioral disturbance is a sign of internal anxiety and upset. Residents experiencing these symptoms are distressed by them. For that reason, we try everything we can to help each individual obtain optimal treatment and stay within the community, in the suite they’ve become accustomed to, surrounded by their friends and familiar caregivers.
A Boutique Approach
Bel Air Assisted Living has found an effective way to provide special support and attention for residents in its memory care program while at the same time keeping them integrated within the full community. Our small facility takes a boutique approach to determine what will work best for each of our residents and keep them involved in a lively and comfortable community. We maintain high staffing levels and ongoing training in dementia care so we can achieve these goals.
Some assisted living communities charge a hefty fee for residences exclusively dubbed memory care units. At Bel Air, we understand that every senior with dementia or Alzheimer’s has different needs. We work with you to determine which services are necessary, which may help reduce your long-term and short-term expenses.
Contact Bel Air Assisted Living
Our Maryland community is a safe, welcoming community for older adults. Experience Bel Air Assisted Living for yourself by scheduling a no-pressure visit at your convenience. We’ll take you through the facility and give you a rundown of our services and amenities, including the ones that focus on dementia care. We look forward to connecting with you and your family soon!