2Sisters Article: What Are the Benefits of Memory Care?

Written By: Michelle Woodbrey, Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP), Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® Chief Executive Officer, 2Sisters Senior Living Advisors

You’ve thought about it, talked about it, and very likely worried about it: will your loved one need to move into a memory care community? This is a difficult and emotional decision. While the answer is unique for each person, a critical decision factor is a lack of someone’s safety awareness, especially when
that person doesn’t have the ability to get help in the event of an emergency. This lack of safety awareness also includes wandering, which is a behavior that affects more than half of people living with dementia. If your loved one has trouble remembering their name or address, it is likely they may become disoriented, even in familiar places. This is when a transition to a secure, memory care neighborhood in an assisted living community is most warranted.

While most people tend to wait as long as possible to make this transition, your loved one might benefit from a memory support community even if safety awareness isn’t an issue. There are proven benefits of which you may not be aware. Here are four of them:

The World Becomes More Manageable.

Dementia doesn’t just cause memory impairment for your loved one. Often someone with declining cognition will have executive functioning difficulties, meaning they will have a hard time with task sequencing. Even seemingly simple undertakings like brushing one’s teeth, may become difficult, causing anxiety and confusion. But when the environment becomes smaller and more controlled, people having such problems often find an increased ability to manage independently, with prompting and cueing for basic tasks. Most memory care neighborhoods are specifically designed to enhance the quality of life for people living with dementia by making their world more manageable. The daily structure, support, routine, smaller environment, and thoughtful elements—such as display plates at meals (versus ordering from a menu)—all contribute to promoting a better quality of life. 

Increased Social Interaction Can Slow Cognitive Decline.

Unfortunately, it is common for people with dementia to isolate themselves. One reason for this is an awareness of their declining memory. Many of our loved ones become self-conscious about doing something out of context—using the wrong words, repeating themselves, or behaving inappropriately. As a result, they put themselves in fewer situations where they have to interact with people. This is a shame, because the lack of social interaction can actually further contribute to memory impairment, in addition to loneliness, depression, and other health concerns. When someone who has been self-isolating moves into a community among other people with dementia, they often feel more comfortable letting their inhibitions go and living more naturally with their disease.

Regained Sense of Purpose.

Older people, especially those with dementia, can experience apathy and depression, feeling as if they lack purpose. After a lifetime of experiences including having a career and raising a family, a person who is now dependent on others can begin to lack motivation. Many memory care neighborhoods incorporate engagement through personalized activities to help residents regain a sense of purposefulness. This includes simple things like folding napkins, sorting papers, tinkering with an old radio, cleaning up after a meal, or assisting with a baking project. It also involves tapping into forgotten passions through art, music, gardening, and reminiscing. When a person is in the right supportive setting, they can feel important again, with a renewed sense of determination, contributing to their ability to thrive in ways they couldn’t have otherwise.

Relationships are Renewed.

Caregiving for a family member changes the dynamics of a relationship, and caregiving for someone with dementia can exacerbate the stress. Throughout our lives, we want to nurture and receive care from those to whom we are closest. However, when it comes to the care of a loved one who has diminished capacity, while counterintuitive, relinquishing their well-being to professional caregivers is often a surprisingly welcome change for both people. Not only can family dynamics affect the quality of caregiving but caregiving can change the nature of the relationship. Moving a loved one into a memory care community can offer the caregiver the ability to “just” be a daughter or husband again. While it is difficult to know when the time is right for a move, the process of becoming informed can help you identify the benefits of a memory care neighborhood for your loved one. Yes, this is a hard decision, but many families have found that the positive effects improve the quality of life for their loved one more than they ever thought possible