When Should You Put Someone in Memory Care?
Five Signs It’s Time to Move From Assisted Living to Memory Care
Assisted living is a wonderful option for seniors who need a bit of extra help yet remain mostly independent. It may even work well for your loved one through the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia. However, as time goes on, your family member will start to exhibit signs that indicate the progression of their disease, and it will become more difficult for them to function without more significant help. Of course, if your loved one is already in assisted living, it may be challenging to discern when it’s the appropriate time to move them to memory care. Here are five signs to look for that indicate it may be time to move to an area with more intensive care.
1. Safety concerns
For memory patients, safety issues often arise with everyday tasks or situations that you and I wouldn’t give a second thought. For example, your loved one might start to struggle with medication management and accidentally take their morning medications two or three times. If their assisted living residence includes a kitchen, they might forget to turn burners off or not remember that substances like aluminum foil start a fire if put in the microwave. In other cases, you might notice that they have cuts, scrapes, bruises, or even more severe injuries that they don’t remember getting. We all have incidents like these every now and then, but when your loved one’s safety is repeatedly put into question, it might be time to search for a memory care facility.
2. Changes in mood/behavior
If your loved one has become increasingly anxious, agitated, and/or prone to aggressive or violent behaviors, this is a surefire sign that it might be time for memory care. Keep in mind that aggressive doesn’t always mean physical. In addition to kicking, hitting, and biting, verbal abuse, manipulation, and threats are all common among progressing memory diseases.
3. Severe disorientation
Has your family member started to wander more frequently? When they wander, do they end up very disoriented and/or in dangerous situations, such as the middle of a busy intersection or highway? If so, this indicates they should be living somewhere with more supervision where they can wander safely inside the facility.
4. Unhealthy living environment
When an assisted living residence that was once well kept is overrun with dirty laundry, trash, and the scent of soiled kitty litter, that’s a clear indication something is wrong. Alternatively, it may be less obvious, such as a mini-fridge full of expired food, a newly developed hoarding habit, or simply an extreme level of disorganization. Healthy living conditions are essential for your loved one’s well-being. When these start to deteriorate with an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient, it’s likely time for memory care.
5. A decline in personal hygiene
Forgetting daily hygiene routines can have a negative impact on your loved one’s physical and mental health. They may not remember what hygiene steps they missed, but they’ll probably recognize that some things are off, especially if they used to be rather well-groomed and put together. The most obvious and concerning hygiene issue is more serious than one or two missed showers or going without deodorant.
If your loved one is afflicted with frequent incontinence and has trouble cleaning themselves afterward, this poses a serious health risk. Not only might they feel embarrassed or ashamed, but they will also smell, and/or likely develop skin problems, urinary tract infections, or worse. If your loved one frequently fails to meet basic hygiene standards or commonly experiences Incontinence, memory care is probably the best next step.
Ask for References: As you and your loved one explore memory care facilities, ask each location you’re in for references. Ideally, these would be families of long-time residents who can give you a clearer picture of the pros and cons of their facility.
Transitioning a Loved One Into Memory Care
Making the transition into memory care can be challenging for residents as well as their families. Luckily, experts have determined a number of steps and strategies you can take to help make the transition easier for both you and your loved one. Read on for details about six of these tactics.
- Take your loved one to events at the memory care facility several times prior to their move-in day. Even if they don’t remember much, the place will still feel familiar.
- Spend some time in your family member’s new room before the move, and try to make it as similar to their current home environment as possible. This will help minimize their anxiety. Additionally, if the facility allows, decorate your loved one’s door with their name and things they enjoy, so they can always identify which room is theirs.
- Fill an iPod or CD player with your loved one’s favorite tunes. Allowing memory care patients this luxury has been shown to help decrease stress, something they’re sure to experience during their transition to memory care.
- Pack for your loved one, and don’t be afraid to get a bit wild with the permanent marker. Label everything, especially basics, such as sweaters, towels, pants, etc., that could easily be mistaken as someone else’s. This will help your loved one feel confident about what items belong to them and help them avoid accidental losses.
- Don’t let your loved one see you being emotional about their move. It’s entirely normal for you to feel a whole range of emotions about moving your loved one into a memory care facility, from grief and sadness to relief. Nevertheless, you should avoid letting your loved one see how difficult the experience may be for you, as it can make it that much harder on them during a crucial transition period. Try your best to appear as upbeat and optimistic about the move as possible.
- Visiting your loved one at their new home is a great idea, but be sure you give them time to get to know their new surroundings on their own as well. Additionally, try to wait a while before you take your loved one on an outing. Call and check in with the staff and make sure your loved one has established new routines and gotten involved in some aspects of the community before you take them on your next mini-adventure.