Watching a loved one live with dementia or Alzheimer’s is challenging and overwhelming. You may be paralyzed with guilt or burned out by the daily toll it takes on your body and mind to provide them with proper care.
Know this — you are not alone.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and by 2050, that number is projected to rise to nearly 13 million.
So, what can you do after an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis? How do you navigate the journey that lies ahead?
The first step is educating yourself about how Alzheimer’s and dementia can affect not only those living with the disease, but also those providing care. It is important to know about resources that can help you cope with a diagnosis, how to select a memory care community for your loved one, and when it’s the right time to do so.
- What to Do After a Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis
- Is Your Loved One Ready for Memory Care?
- The 4-Step Process to Choosing a Memory Care Community
- 6 Things to Look For in a Memory Care Community
What to Do After a Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis
Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have no cure. However, there are ways to treat symptoms. A doctor may prescribe medications such as cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine for dementia or Aducanumab or other drugs for Alzheimer’s disease.
You or your loved one may feel scared and overwhelmed after a dementia diagnosis. This is normal! You’ll need time to adjust to how the diagnosis will impact your life.
There are many things to consider. The following tips can help you be proactive about a diagnosis.
#1 – Talk About It
Many patients find it helpful to talk to friends, family, or a counselor about their diagnosis. It can help them recognize that they aren’t alone and that support structures exist to help them and their caregivers navigate a complex and uncertain future.
#2 – Get Assessed for Care and Support
What services are available in your area if you or a loved one needs support?
Your state may provide in-home programs, services, and meals for people living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in the home. These services may also provide community support and services, adult day care, dementia coaching, and home health services, among others.
Learn more about what your state provides:
- New Hampshire – Caregiver Support Services
- Vermont – Dementia Care & Family Caregiver Support
- Massachusetts – In-Home Services
- New York – Department of Health
#3 – Maintain or Create Healthy Habits
People need to stay physically and mentally active when they have any kind of dementia. Staying healthy may include:
- Talking to a doctor or healthcare provider about feelings such as depression or loneliness
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet
- Regular exercise (walking, gardening, etc.)
- Regular hearing, dental, and eye exams
- Getting vaccinations such as flu shots
#4 – Create a Memory Book or Life Box
A memory book or life box is simply a collection of meaningful items meant to stimulate memory and help loved ones connect to past events and friends and family members. Photographs, notes, and cards from various times in your loved one’s life can help them construct a timeline of their past that will be helpful later on.
You don’t have to stop at photos, cards, or notes. What about a wedding song? Or a beloved painting? Or autographed memorabilia? A memory book or life box can and ought to be a multimedia experience that engages your loved one in various ways.
#5 – Adapt to the Environment
Navigating through the home can become tricky if you have memory loss or confusion. However, the following changes can make for a safer home environment:
- Add or Improve Lighting
- Improve Accessibility (remove obstructions, widen walking areas, etc.)
- Remove Tripping Hazards (rugs, uneven or slippery surfaces)
- Label Doors and Cabinets
- Use Reminders (notepads, contact info, calendars, etc.)
#6 – Organize Important Paperwork
Important papers such as banking information, mortgage documents, insurance policies, bills, and so on should be put in one easy-to-remember place. You want to make sure you can find them in the event of an emergency or life-changing scenario.
#7 – Create a Will
If your loved one hasn’t made a will, it’s time to do so now. They’ll want to ensure their money and valuables go to the people or organizations they choose and that any end-of-life decisions are made while they can still make them.
#8 – Designate a Power of Attorney
Who does your loved one want to manage their affairs, assets, medical treatments, and end-of-life wishes if they can no longer do so?
Choosing a power of attorney to help make difficult decisions can prove invaluable. This can help you plan for appropriate care in the advanced stages of life, should they be unable to make important decisions due to Alzheimer’s or dementia-related issues.
Is Your Loved One Ready for Memory Care?
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are degenerative diseases, and symptoms worsen over time, which means your loved one may require additional professional medical help at some point. Finding the right memory care community for your family can help you plan for this eventuality and ensure your loved one receives the best care possible.
How do you do that?
First, let’s define what memory care means in the healthcare industry. Memory care refers to a higher level of care for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia than what would normally be found in an assisted living or retirement community due to their higher needs. A good memory care facility won’t utilize a one-size-fits-all approach to care. Instead, memory care communities like The Village offer customized strategies, treatments, and activities to improve cognitive function and stimulate residents who are at different stages of the disease. Memory care services include safe, structured, low-stress environments with set routines designed for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Staff is uniquely trained to help residents with personal care tasks and meals and to provide additional support to residents. In memory care, staff members ensure that residents eat, take their medications, participate in activities, and much more.
This differs from an assisted living facility where residents manage their own time and activities, including getting to, and from, meals and socializing.
The Village at White River Junction provides many different services that enrich the lives of residents with memory care challenges, such as:
- Access to Medical Care
- Assistance with Hygiene
- Health and Exercise Routines
- 24-Hour Supervision and Security
- Housekeeping and Laundry Services
- Three Meals Per Day
- Emergency Call Support
- Social Gatherings and Activities
- A Safe Environment
People with Alzheimer’s or dementia have unique needs and safety concerns. Six out of ten people with dementia will wander at least once, and many do so often. This presents unique health and safety risks, so memory care facilities often use the following techniques to keep residents safe:
- Door Alarms
- Doors and Elevators with Codes
- Enclosed Outdoor Spaces to Keep Residents on Site
- Tracking Technologies such as Bracelets
A family member or paid caregiver who provides in-home support can extend the timeline for a loved one to safely live in their own home or another non-medical setting with a caregiver. This may be especially true in the early stages of the disease. However, a time will likely come when your loved one will need a higher level of care, given the degenerative nature of the disease.
Caregiver burnout is a real concern. Feeling stressed and overwhelmed is normal, but as the diseases progress, caregivers take on more work and responsibility. In many cases, caregivers ignore their own health and well-being and are anguished by guilt at the idea that they cannot provide adequate care for their loved ones. The outcome is that all too often, caregivers’ health deteriorates as well. The reality is that there will likely come a time when your loved one should be cared for in a professional medical setting rather than at home.
Professional assistance can give caregivers room to breathe and help them refocus their energy on spending quality time with their loved ones rather than providing 24/7 care and support.
Evaluate the following areas of concern to ascertain if you or a loved one is ready for memory care:
- Is the person with dementia or Alzheimer’s safe at home?
- Is the health of the person with dementia or Alzheimer’s—or their caregiver—at risk?
- Are caregivers in good enough physical condition to handle the daily workload?
- Are caregivers emotionally fit to provide a reasonable level of care?
- Would social interaction and structure at a memory care facility benefit the person with dementia?
The answers to these questions will help you determine when and how to seek professional help.
The 4-Step Process to Choosing a Memory Care Community
Choosing the right memory care community for your loved one is no easy task, yet it’s crucial to ensure they get the best care and that you have peace of mind. But how do you start? This four-step approach can help make the selection process clearer and easier.
Step # 1 – Assess Your Loved One’s Needs
Consider what your loved ones’ needs and priorities are so that you can better match them with the appropriate memory care services. Ask yourself questions such as the following and record your answers because you’ll need them later:
- Does your loved one need help bathing and dressing?
- Do they need 24/7 medical supervision, or is a degree of independence an option?
- How mobile are they?
- Would your loved one benefit from fitness and wellness programs?
Once you have a good idea of what needs must be met to keep your loved one healthy, safe, and engaged, it’s time to move on to Step #2.
Step #2 – Do Your Research
The quality of memory care units varies widely, and the pandemic has reduced staffing numbers in the healthcare industry across the country. Therefore, you’ll want to research your options thoroughly. You can start with:
- Consulting friends and family for word-of-mouth recommendations
- Contacting local Alzheimer’s disease and dementia support organizations for recommendations
- Searching the internet
Create a list of places you’d like to learn more about, and then look at their websites. We recommend reading about their memory care services, viewing photo galleries, and downloading information such as digital brochures to learn how they can help you with your loved one’s needs and challenges. It will also help you weed out the places that aren’t a good fit for your loved one.
Step #3 – Make a List of Questions
Using your notes from Steps #1 and #2, you can now prepare a list of questions you’d like to ask prospective memory care homes. The answers will help you match the type of facility to your loved one’s needs.
Prepare questions like, “What is your philosophy on providing effective memory care?”, “What is a normal day like?” and “What specialized services do you offer?”
Don’t be shy about asking tough questions, either. Professional memory care staff should be well-versed in all memory care challenges for loved ones and their caregivers. They should be ready to answer questions to your satisfaction, possibly before an on-site visit, which can help you rule out places that aren’t a good fit.
Step #4 – Schedule an On-Site Visit
You’re now ready to visit prospective memory care facilities and schedule a visit. Don’t do this step online or from a distance. Getting a live tour of a memory care facility will help you get a feel for the place’s vibe and its residents, the friendliness and professionalism of the staff, and the quality of the services available. This is your opportunity to interview staff at the memory care facility and ask questions. You want to ensure that what you’ve seen online or heard through word-of-mouth recommendations will match your loved one’s needs.
6 Things to Look For in a Memory Care Community
What should you be looking for when choosing the right memory care community? There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating Alzheimer’s or dementia, so you’ll want to ensure that the memory care community you choose can account for the individualized, high-level care your loved one needs.
#1 – A Person-Centered Philosophy
Your loved one will interact with nurses and other memory care staff daily. You must understand how a memory care facility approaches its interactions with residents and how those interactions will engage and stimulate your loved one in positive ways.
A person-centered philosophy can manage the psychological symptoms of dementia. Each resident at The Village enjoys an individualized Heartfelt CONNECTIONS Memory Care Program® that starts with getting to know each resident’s life story, focusing on each resident’s capabilities. Memory care experts then develop a personalized plan that concentrates on each resident’s unique abilities and celebrates each small success.
Dementia care focuses on the person, building relationships that foster normalcy, choice, belonging, security, and strength. These relationships help residents take part in the things they enjoy, such as art, music, board games, film, and more.
The Village at White River Junction is uniquely suited to provide a person-centered philosophy to all its memory care residents through the innovative and proven Heartfelt CONNECTIONS – A Memory Care Program®, a comprehensive program for staff members based on the latest in memory care research and best practices. Our nurses and medical staff are highly trained in memory care.
#2 – Safety
Comprehensive safety plans and measures are vital to ensure the long-term health of residents by preventing injuries. The Village at White River Junction Memory Care apartments maximize safety and comfort for each resident.
The entire second floor is dedicated to Memory Care. It is a secure area built to serve the needs of residents with memory loss due to Alzheimer’s or other dementia. It is a self-contained ‘neighborhood’ on the 2nd floor consisting of 30 private studio apartments, dining rooms, activity spaces, and a private garden. Every element has been specially designed for residents with unique memory-related challenges.
Memory Care residents benefit from allowing the staff to escort them throughout the building, including in-house field trips to the library, gym, cinema, and live performances at The Miller Stage.
In addition, fully trained nurses provide expert care for your loved one, such as medication assistance and treatments.
#3 – Delicious, Healthy Meals
As we age, our senses of smell and taste may diminish. Delicious, healthy meals become paramount to senior health and must be made to entice residents. Proper nutrition can help keep the body strong and healthy, whereas poor nutrition in people with Alzheimer’s or dementia can increase behavioral symptoms and lead to weight loss.
Meals at The Village are prepared by top-notch chefs who plan, prepare, and create three nutritious, tasty meals daily. Sharing a meal can be a joyous, social time filled with laughter and storytelling. Cooking and baking allow seniors to express their creativity. Food can be a source of entertainment and is an important part of celebrating any occasion.
The Olcott Memory Care dining room includes four-seat tables for residents to dine with staff. The Farm House Kitchen, located in the Wilder Room, has a full residential-scale kitchen for staff-led cooking activities.
#4 – Health and Wellness
When people feel well physically, it’s easier to lead meaningful, rewarding lives, especially for people who have Alzheimer’s or dementia. Health and wellness at The Village include:
- Healthy Diet
- Sleep Assistance
- Pain Management
- Infection Control
Socialization has a range of positive effects on people who have dementia. It provides a sense of normalcy and structure and strengthens connections to time and place. It also:
- Reduces Stress
- Decreases Anxiety
- Reduces Depression
- Decreases the Risk of Physical Health Issues
Socialization is so effective that a study of over 1100 seniors tested over 12 years revealed that cognitive decline was 70 percent less in people with frequent social contact than those with low social activity.
At The Village, our wide range of engaging social activities, such as painting classes, games, and exercise classes, seek to improve the lives of our residents consistently
#5 – Beautiful Surroundings
Physical environments are important for people with dementia because they keep residents safe, comfortable, and as independent as possible. Dementia-friendly spaces at The Village truly set our memory care services apart.
Based on the latest research in best practices for dementia care, The Village has created a series of Living Nooks throughout our 2nd floor.
Living Nooks recreate familiar situations from the past, like gardening, caring for a baby, tending to office tasks, laundry, or maintaining a family kitchen. Memory Care residents can spark old memories and create activities that encourage interest, movement, and interaction.
Residents also enjoy amenities such as the Gates Memory Care Garden, a secure, landscaped oasis exclusively for the use of Memory Care residents, and the Newberry Lounge, where they can enjoy books, puzzles, board games, and films.
Contact us to learn more about how we deliver top-notch memory care services to our residents.
#6 – Private Room
Residents can spend a lot of time in common areas, but with dementia, residents need a place to go that’s quiet and relaxing in case they start to feel overstimulated or overwhelmed.
At The Village, each Memory Care suite is a little different, but all include the same comfort and safety features. Each apartment includes a generous living space, as well as a full bathroom. Everything is flush with the floor level, so there is no need to step up or down. A large window overlooks the Hillside, the residential Village, or the Downtown area. You provide your favorite furnishings so that it will feel like home right away.
We know that an Alzheimer’s disease or dementia diagnosis is a scary and life-changing event, but you do have options, and there is help out there. To learn more, please contact us today or peruse our website and get to know us through our photo gallery or memory care services.
Thank you for stopping by. We hope you found this information valuable.
- AARP. 6 Ways to Prevent Someone with Dementia from Wandering or Getting Lost.
- Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.
- A Place for Mom. Signs It’s Time for Memory Care: 13 Questions to Ask.
- Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living: Adult Services Division. Dementia Care & Family Caregiver Support.
- Greater Good – Berkeley University. How Social Connections Keep Seniors Healthy.
- Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s and dementia: What’s the difference?
- Mayo Clinic. Dementia.
- Memorycare.com. When to Consider Memory Care.
- National Institutes of Health: National Institute on Aging. How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Treated?
- New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. Caregiver Support Services.
- U.S. News. Determining When Memory Care Is Necessary.
- Very Well Mind. What Are the Early Signs of Dementia?