Today roughly 6 million Americans age 65 and over are living with Alzheimer’s dementia and the misery it visits upon them and their families.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Alzheimer’s is the now the costliest disease in America, exacting a higher price tag than either heart disease or cancer. It is estimated that this year alone approximately $305 billion will be spent on the care of those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other dementias, or one in every five dollars of Medicare spending.
Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg: By 2050, the number of Alzheimer’s patients is expected to jump to over 13 million with a cost of care of over $1 trillion dollars annually.
Equally troubling is the fact that as the population ages, the caring for family members suffering from dementia falls heaviest on people who are themselves in the later stages of life. Fully thirty percent of caregivers are over 65 and most are women. Over 33% of caregivers are the daughters of the Alzheimer’s sufferer. The emotional and physical toll on these caregivers is an increasingly important issue and one that requires satisfactory solutions as the Generation Xers move toward retirement.
Not surprisingly, an increasing number of families seek out assisted living options which specialize in memory care and can offer an optimal quality of life for their loved ones. For most families, especially those with heads of households still working, the emotional cost of home care and the amount of daily attention it requires is impractical and highly emotionally draining. Fortunately, a large percentage of assisted living facilities are dedicated entirely to delivering memory care or have devoted a portion of their staff and residences to serving those in need of these highly personalized services.
What is Memory Care?
Memory care is a unique form of long-term care provided by specially trained staff that caters to patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia as well as other types of chronic memory loss associated with aging. Supervision is usually 24-hours and staff within memory care units or facilities are typically trained specifically in providing quality patient-centered care to residents suffering from dementia or chronic memory loss. The goal of memory care is to know each resident as an individual and to design a care plan that meets their individual needs and interests as much as possible.
Quality of Life
Long before dementia was formerly recognized as a medical condition, the relatives and doctors of those afflicted simply referred to it as “senility”. An expected part of growing old, the classic signs of mental decline were not identified in the brain until 1906 when German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer found “plaque” and other abnormalities in a woman who had experienced confusion and hallucinations before death.
Today, age-related dementia is well understood by scientists and billions are being funneled into research to find preventions and treatments. The care options for dementia patients have increased dramatically over the past few decades, which a variety of living and healthcare services available designed specifically to enhance the quality of life while managing symptoms and any physical or emotional discomfort.
Once a desirable assisted living facility has been selected, family members and their loved one will discover all the usual services of supervised assisted living with the benefit of additional customized lifestyle and wellness programs. Here is what to expect when paying an exploratory visit of a memory care residence:
- The physical layout of memory care facilities is unique, focusing on soothing colors, easy-to-navigate floor plans, and secure settings. Memory care units are designed to reduce resident stress and minimize potentially dangerous but common wandering behaviors without stifling an individual’s sense of freedom and creativity.
- Structured activities, programs, and social events designed to nurture the resident’s cognitive abilities. Stimulating activities typically include brain games, dancing, music, and arts and crafts as they provide ample opportunities for residents to pursue personal interests and hobbies.
- Patient-centered care which assesses the needs of each resident and provides a calendar of therapy and activities which address unique challenges and any specific physical and emotional needs. Care plans are designed to be respectful of and responsive to the individual’s life experience and personality wthout diminishing in any way the quality of treatment and services provided.
The objective of any high-quality memory care environment is to ensure a comforting and stimulating daily routine with the highest possible quality of life for both the loved one struggling with dementia and their family. When done in a respectful and positive manner in combination with the appropriate physical care and emotional support, everyone comes out a winner.