Memory care is a specific type of care for adults who have been diagnosed with dementia. As well as providing the care needed to keep patients physically healthy, memory care focuses on the specific needs of those with a memory problem.
Memory-centered care is focused on providing the best possible quality of life, and providing treatments that work to promote cognitive health.
What is dementia?
Dementia is a general term for loss of cognitive ability. Sufferers may find that they start to struggle with language, memory, and problem solving. These problems are severe enough that they begin to interfere with daily life.
Dementia is often used as an umbrella term for a number of different conditions. One of the main causes of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which is responsible for around 60-70% of cases of dementia. Alzheimer’s is caused by a build up of proteins inside and outside of brain cells, which makes it difficult for them to communicate with one another.
There are also other types of dementia, such as:
- Vascular dementia. This is caused by microscopic bleeding and blood-vessel blockage in the brain.
- Dementia from Parkinson’s disease.
- Dementia caused by stroke, surgery, or another injury.
- Frontotemporal dementia.
- Lewy body dementia.
Dementia patients can often become confused and depressed, and they may struggle to complete day-to-day tasks. The symptoms that become apparent in dementia are caused by damage in different areas of the brain.
Signs of dementia
Dementia can be difficult to spot in the beginning as some of the symptoms could easily be mistaken for age-related changes. However, it’s important to note that significant cognitive impairment and memory loss are not natural parts of the ageing processes, and should always be treated seriously.
Some of the symptoms of dementia are as follows:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty with finding words and communicating
- Confusion and disorientation
- Getting lost while making journeys that are well known
- Depression and anxiety
- Behavioral changes (for example, inappropriate behavior or aggression)
- Personality changes
- Trouble with planning and organizing
- Trouble with motor functions and coordination
- Poor personal hygiene
If you notice any of these signs in your loved one, it’s important that you talk with them about it as soon as possible, and encourage them to consult their physician.
This is because a lot of the treatments for dementia are much more likely to be effective if they are started early. Although there is no cure, there are steps that can be taken to slow cognitive decline. In addition to this, it’s a good idea to have conversations with your loved one about their illness and preferred treatment options while they are still able to meaningfully participate. This way, you will know that the course of action that you decide on is what they want.
Talking with your loved one about dementia
It’s never going to be easy to speak with your loved one about their memory loss. It’s a highly emotive topic on both sides, and it’s easy for it to become quite heated.
Geriatrician Magdelena Bednarczyk offers the following advice for having this conversation:
- Plan what you are going to say in advance. This way you can be sure that you are approaching the topic in the most sensitive way that you can. Think about specific instances that you are concerned about, and try to predict the sorts of responses that they are likely to give you so that you are better equipped to keep the conversation on track.
- Think about where you will have the conversation. It’s a good idea to talk somewhere that you both feel comfortable, and where you can have privacy. If you have the conversation in a public place, your loved one might feel as though you aren’t respecting their privacy. Try to leave as much time as possible to have the conversation, don’t for example, try to talk about it in a rush before you have to go to work.
- Explain why you are concerned. Explaining how you feel will mean that your loved one will see why you have felt the need to bring up the topic with them, and they won’t feel as though you are just being judgemental.
- Enter into a dialogue. Ask your loved one what they would like to do next, and offer your suggestions, but don’t dictate to them. They are still an independent adult, even if they are having memory issues, and telling them what to do isn’t likely to go down well!
- Create a plan, and support them in executing it. Let your loved one know that you will go with them to visit the physician and that you will support them afterwards. It’s an unnerving and scary prospect to be facing, so it’s important that they know they aren’t facing it alone.
Finally, you should expect to have to have multiple conversations. It’s highly likely that you won’t convince your loved one to go and see a doctor on the first try! Try to keep an open dialogue and above all, be patient.
How does memory care differ from other types of care?
As with other types of care, the focus of memory care is keeping your loved one safe and maintaining their individuality and dignity. The aim is to allow them to have the best possible quality of life.
The main difference with memory care is that an emphasis is placed on activities that will help to slow cognitive decline, and that will make life meaningful for people with memory problems. These activities will differ from person to person, as an effective memory care program will be highly tailored to suit the individual and their needs. Memory care will be delivered by healthcare professionals, and is often designed to work alongside medication in a complementary way. It works beyond the scope of the care that can be provided by doctors. You can expect to see the following:
- Nutritious meals and dining programs specifically designed to aid dementia patients.
- Teams specifically trained to assist with dementia.
- Sensory programs designed to stimulate cognition.
- Social activities to promote mental stimulation.
- 24-hour health monitoring
Have a look to see what is available near you by searching for memory care near me.
When should you consider memory care?
In the early stages of dementia, your loved one can often be cared for at home. It can be a good idea to keep caring in the home for as long as possible, as this means that there is as little disruption as possible.
Memory care is usually utilized for mid-to-late stage dementia patients who are exhibiting signs of confusion and who can’t be safely or effectively looked after in the home.