Companion-style living is a unique approach to senior care in memory care communities. It saves money, but more importantly, it can help seniors feel less isolated and more connected to their community. For caregivers who feel anxious about transitioning a loved one to memory care, companion-style living offers reassurance that a loved one won’t be making the transition alone. Here are five key benefits of companion-style living in memory care.
1. Financial Savings
Living with someone else is an easy way to reduce the expenses of senior living. Fewer expenses can ultimately mean a better quality of life for the senior you love. You may have more money to invest in luxuries, such as taking your loved one on a day trip to the spa or treating them to their favorite gourmet meals. Saving money also means fewer worries for caregivers. Chronic worry that you might run out of money to fund a loved one’s care can be exhausting and even make you physically ill.
2. Reducing Problem Behaviors
It’s difficult to know what it’s like to be a person with dementia, especially when dementia undermines a person’s ability to communicate. But research suggests it likely feels like being a prisoner in a body that doesn’t work well. No wonder so many people with dementia feel agitated, aggressive, and angry. Caregivers perceive the behaviors associated with these emotions as problems, but they may just be the understandable reaction to the overwhelming stress of living with dementia.
Living with someone else can help dementia feel less isolating, and may reduce the daily frustration your loved one experiences. One study found that just an hour a week of social interaction could reduce problem behaviors associated with dementia. So living with a companion might have even more powerful benefits.
3. Preventing Loneliness and Isolation
Dementia can be a deeply isolating experience. People with dementia may struggle to remain connected to loved ones. One study found that putting a person with dementia in an unfamiliar or isolating environment can compound these feelings of loneliness. Other research has linked loneliness to a range of health problems in seniors, including an increased risk of dying.
4. Better Cognitive Health
The course of dementia is unpredictable. Some people decline quickly. Others remain vibrant, active, and thoughtful for years following their diagnosis. People in memory care communities have experienced significant memory loss, but that doesn’t mean they have to decline at a rapid rate.
A number of studies—including the ongoing Amsterdam Study of the Elderly—have found that loneliness is a risk factor for memory loss and cognitive decline in seniors. If loneliness is linked to dementia, it stands to reason that it might worsen symptoms. Other studies support this notion. A 2012 study, for example, found that socialization and exercise could improve thinking and memory in people with age-related memory problems.
5. Improving Quality of Life
Companion living offers a built-in friend and partner in crime. Your loved one will have someone with whom to commiserate and celebrate, as well as the reassurance that comes with close friendship. Living with another person can be a powerful experience. Some people say that companion-style living—whether with a college roommate or in sleepaway camp—led to some of the best moments of their life. Living with a companion in a memory care community is a great way to relive those moments.
Dementia brings many changes that can alter a person’s identity, lifestyle, and relationships. Living with a companion can ease these burdens and support a smoother transition to memory care.