Memory care is a comprehensive program that is designed to help clients with dementia remain involved in their environment and function at the highest level of their abilities. Memory care is also important for family members and caregivers as a good program offers educational programs, care management and support groups. Memory care is important for people with dementia who are living at home, attending day care programs, or living in assisted living facilities, personal care and nursing homes.
What is memory care? Memory care encompasses various key areas including:
1) Assessment of personal interests and activity planning. It is helpful to assess the interests of the individual with dementia so that a recreation coordinator and other appropriate staff can suggest, plan and implement appropriate activities. Various forms of therapy, including music and art, are very conducive to dementia patients. It is also helpful to recommend activities that were previously enjoyed by the individual. Some accommodations may be needed to help the client participate in those activities, including simplifying the steps involved or using specialized equipment. Memory care program staff can help implement these accommodations.
2) Cognitive assessments. It is highly recommended to have a trained professional assess the cognitive strengths and deficiencies of the individual. Cognitive assessments look at memory, attention span, language use, reasoning ability and physical function. A baseline should be established so that changes can be monitored overtime, allowing interventions to be quickly put in place. The services of a neuropsychologist for comprehensive testing and/or a psychiatrist may be needed for medication recommendation and management.
3) Care coordination. Various professionals should work together to coordinate the care and services needed for the individual with dementia. Some professionals may include physical, occupational and speech therapists, primary physician, specialists, caretakers, and family members.
4) Specialized staff training and competency. Memory care staff have special education and skills. This can include a thorough understanding of the different levels of cognitive functioning, symptoms of dementia and possible delirium, how to understand how unmet needs are expressed through behavioral changes, communication techniques for the patient or resident with dementia, abuse prevention, and how to support family members’ needs.
5) Behavior Management. Memory care is uniquely designed to help with the behavioral management of those with dementia. Dementia causes a number of behavior changes, including sun downing which occurs during evening hours. During this time, the individual with dementia may become more aggressive. Wandering is another behavior that can be expected with the memory impaired population. A memory care program can provide strategies on how to lessen these and other negative behaviors common in dementia patients.
6) Safe and Supportive Environments. The environment for a memory impaired individual will need safety modifications to avoid falls and wandering. A memory care program can assess the home environment of the client and make special recommendations, such as special lights, colors and safety alarms, to make the home safer and calmer.
Memory care can benefit both the client and their family members through education, care coordination, personalized programming, increased knowledge and overall safety. During June, we observe Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month and recognize the over 6.5 million individuals who are afflicted by the disease. For more information about our Healthy Brain and Memory Center, please call 484-756-4800.