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Living Their Best Life: Questions to Ask Memory Care Communities About Quality of Life and Programs

Nearly 5.8 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. Many family members care for their loved ones at home but others choose to receive care in nursing homes and assisted living communities. People with dementia may ultimately require 24-hour care as their healthcare needs become more demanding and complex. Memory care units are designed for those with severe cognitive impairments that affect daily life. These units have highly trained staff members who specialize in working with those with dementia. According to U.S. News, some common behaviors may indicate the need for memory care. These often include changes in behavior, confusion, disorientation, and a decline in physical health. Choosing a memory care facility for your loved one can be daunting. That’s why we have compiled a checklist of items and questions to consider as you begin your search for care.

Community design, programs, and quality of life 

Quality of life should be a number one priority when looking for a memory care facility. A flexible daily schedule full of stimulating programs, exercise, music, and therapies can help your loved ones stay engaged and enjoy their lives. While meal plans and staffing ratios certainly are important, make sure they offer programming that will improve your loved one’s quality of life. Here are a few questions you can ask to help you understand what a facility offers and how it will impact your loved one:

What therapies do they offer? 

Therapies specifically designed for those with dementia can help relieve frustration and anxiety and promote physical and emotional well-being. 

  • Art therapy can provide pleasure, encourage social behavior and improve self-esteem for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. 
  • Music therapy can help memory recall, boost mood, reduce stress and anxiety, help manage pain and discomfort, and encourage emotional intimacy with family members and caregivers. 
  • Aromatherapy uses natural plant extracts to treat common health issues and promote overall well-being. This therapy can treat stress and anxiety, which are common in those with dementia. 

What activities do they to those residing in memory care?

It’s important to ask how communities engage with their residents and keep them active and stimulated. Activities can offer a sense of purpose and independence which can help boost self-esteem, especially for those with dementia. High-quality memory care communities will have a structured activity schedule throughout the day. Pet therapy, gardening, painting, board games, puzzles, singalongs, and sensory and tactile programming provide engagement and stimulation. Look at the outdoor spaces. Walking outdoors or going along paths in a wheelchair provides sensory stimulation.

As you search for a memory care facility, you should look for those that incorporate real-life situations known as life skill stations. Some memory care units will provide kitchens for supervised cooking or baking, gardens, and office areas with playdough, typewriters, and other tactile programs. 

Does the building feel like a home or a hospital?

Feeling at home in a memory care community will help your loved one adjust easily and with less stress. Communities that offer simple floor plans can help reduce feelings of frustration and also prevent wandering. When you tour a community, look for color-coded hallways, personalized décor in the rooms, soothing wall colors, and short but wide hallways. Here are a few additional questions to consider:

  • Is the building designed to accommodate wheelchairs? Does it anticipate the needs of non-ambulatory residents such as sit-to-stand lifts and elevators?
  • Are there handrails in the hallways, elevators, bathrooms, and showers?
  • Are there living plants and green spaces? 

Safety and staffing

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it’s common for a person with dementia to wander or become lost and confused. Six in 10 people living with dementia will wander at least once. Wandering can often lead to falls and other serious injuries. As you tour different memory care facilities, make sure to ask the following questions about safety measures, protocols, and staffing:

  • Is the memory care unit secured with a keypad entry?
  • Does the facility offer emergency alert systems and 24-hour supervised care?
  • Are the buildings and grounds secure?
  • Is there a nurse on duty at all times?
  • What is the staff-to-resident ratio during the weekdays and weekends?
  • Is there a medical director?
  • What medical services are available?
  • What types of training does the staff have? 

Policies and Procedures

The key to finding the right memory care community for your loved one is to have all the information. When you meet with facility staff, you should consider asking about their policies and procedures so as not to be surprised in the future. Here are a few questions to consider according to The Memory Center:

  • Can my loved one stay here through the end of life even if they exhaust their financial resources?
  • What types of care can your community not provide?
  • What is the discharge policy?
  • In what events or situations does the facility notify the family?
  • Is the community all-inclusive? or are there additional costs?
  • What happens if my loved one is no longer ambulatory?

Memory Care at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, comfort and consistency are key. We offer a flexible daily schedule full of stimulating programs, exercise, music, and worship services, so your loved ones can be as active or engaged as they like. Are you looking for a place where your loved one is free to live with joy in each moment? Explore our memory care services.  

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Westport, CT 06880

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