Memory care refers to the services provided to individuals with diagnosed memory impairment in a residential facility. Often diagnosed memory loss is due to Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Memory care may be offered in a standalone facility. It is also available as a special care unit in some skilled nursing facilities or assisted living communities.
One objective of memory care is to nurture the senior’s cognitive skills. Memory care is structured so that a typical day promotes cognitive skills and reduces stress. Routines are established so that the senior knows what to expect, which lowers stress. Structured activities in a memory care community are often specifically designed to support cognitive function. Such activities are led by therapists or nurses. Examples of structured activities include memory games, art therapy, baking, social events, music therapy, and animal visits.
In addition to services to address cognitive needs, the following services are typically provided by memory care:
- Private or semi-private quarters
- Medication Management
Staff in a memory care community provide 24-hour supervision and have been specially trained staff to meet the needs of memory care patients. If care is provided in a skilled nursing facility, a registered nurse is onsite around the clock. Some communities have physicians in various medical specialties make regular visits to the facility so that residents don’t have to travel to medical appointments.
Each person’s experience of dementia is unique; therefore, the level of memory care needed by residents varies. That’s why it’s important that memory care communities offer personalized care to their residents. Many communities have psychologists or psychiatrists who are on staff or visit regularly. Their role is to provide therapy and to manage medication regimens.
The physical space in a memory care community is often designed to decrease stress and promote relaxation. Some communities have circular walkways because it’s common for memory care patients to experience stress due to reaching the end of a walkway. Other communities have a special relaxation space known as a Snoezelen Room, a concept invented by psychologists in the 1970s. Calming sensory input defines these rooms. Typical features are aromatherapy, calming colors, comfortable seating, and soothing sounds.
Memory care is provided in a secure environment because wandering from supervised care is a common problem among people with memory loss. Facilities differ in how they secure memory care residents. Some facilities have their patients wear bracelets that alert the staff if a resident goes too near an exit. Other facilities may use alarmed exits and enclosed outdoor areas to secure their memory care patients.
Securing the environment is not the only safety measure for memory care. Unlike typical assisted living, memory care usually does not include access to a kitchen to prevent the associated hazards. In a memory care environment, locking up common liquids that could be poisonous if ingested, such as laundry detergent or shampoo, is necessary.