More than 18 percent of Maryland residents are 60 or older. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 3 seniors will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. Seniors who need memory care in Maryland have a number of options. Narrowing down a long list and deciding which choice is right for your family can be challenging — especially if family members disagree about the need for memory care or are skeptical of a senior’s dementia diagnosis. If you’re hoping to transition a senior you love to memory care in Maryland, here’s how to navigate the many hurdles you face and find the perfect fit.
What Is Memory Care?
In the popular imagination, dementia is memory loss. The reality is much more complex. Dementia is a group of diseases, each with its own prognosis and symptoms. The common theme of all forms of dementia, regardless of the specific diagnosis, is that dementia steadily erodes cognitive functioning. This means that a person’s ability to remember things, to think clearly, to plan and execute daily tasks, and even to talk may steadily decline.
Over time, this can make it unsafe for a person to live alone. They might forget to turn off the stove, or mistakenly believe that a family member is a dangerous intruder. People with dementia may also struggle with simple tasks such as getting dressed and bathing. As the disease progresses, some people with dementia develop mental health symptoms such as anxiety and depression. They may even have hallucinations or delusions. Some wander off, and then don’t know how to get home.
The painful reality of dementia is heartbreaking, but ignoring it won’t make it go away. Family members must know what awaits them. Even the most dedicated and loving caregiver may be unable to provide sufficient support as dementia spirals.
Memory care offers help. Traditional memory care communities keep seniors safe, supported, and cared for. Most memory care facilities offer 24/7 supervision in a secure unit, ensuring that your loved one is safe. Some additional features of memory care include:
- Staff who are specially trained in dementia.
- A safe living environment that minimizes risks. For example, your loved one won’t have access to a stove.
- Help with activities of daily living, including medication management.
- Transportation to doctor’s appointments.
- Pre-planned nutritious and tasty meals. People with dementia often have difficulty feeding themselves, so memory care facilities make healthy eating a priority.
Many families find that dementia care offers them a second chance at a relationship with their loved one. The role of caregiver is an important one, but it can overshadow other important roles — brother, sister, daughter, or friend. Memory care allows you to return to a relationship based on love and trust, not giving and receiving care. This can ease family conflicts, prevent guilt and shame, and help caregivers feel less exhausted.
How Memory Care Communities Are Different From Traditional Memory Care Facilities
Traditional memory care facilities focus on health and safety. Memory care communities, however, are about more than just keeping your loved one safe. They recognize that a person’s sense of joy and purpose are intimately connected to their health.They keep your loved one engaged, happy, and continually growing.
Exceptional memory care communities offer much more than traditional facilities, including:
- Dementia-appropriate activities. Dementia doesn’t have to mean boredom, and it certainly doesn’t have to mean giving up beloved hobbies. Memory care communities find ways to adapt fun and meaningful activities for your loved one’s abilities.
- Meaningful socialization. Socializing with others can be more challenging with dementia, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Community events bring people with dementia together, encouraging them to forge new relationships.
- Exercise and physical activity. Research consistently shows that physical activity may slow the progression of dementia and improve symptoms.
- Mental health support. As dementia progresses, it may trigger mental health issues, such as anxiety. Memory care communities find ways to ease this anxiety. For example, research shows that music music can help with the anxiety that so often accompanies dementia.
Memory care communities collaborate with seniors and their families to construct personalized care packages that address your loved one’s needs. A senior who loves gardening might spend some time in the garden every day. A former dancer might attend regular Zumba classes or participate in a themed community dance. Memory care communities are about fostering your loved one’s unique gifts in a safe and loving environment.
Benefits of a Memory Care Community
Family caregiving can be exhausting. Memory care offers a break. Moreover, memory care typically provides more activities, better socialization, and a fuller life than a family caregiver can. That’s because memory care blends numerous activities all under one roof. There’s no need to plan or drive. And because memory care communities are designed to be safe places, there’s no need to fear that your loved one might wander off.
Some of the benefits of memory care include:
- Less anxiety. Your loved one will spend their days doing activities that are fun and tailored to their specific needs, which can help with anxiety.
- Relief from boredom.
- A chance to make new friends.
- Relief for caregivers. Caregiving is exhausting work. In memory care, your loved one gets exceptional care while you get a chance to live your own life.
- A slower progression. Better nutrition, more physical activity, and more chances to exercise the brain can all help slow the progression of dementia. The right combination of activities builds upon and uses the skills your loved one still has without making them feel self-conscious about the skills they have lost.
- Support for families. Loving someone with dementia is difficult. Most communities offer support groups and many offer additional resources, such as a care coordinator and regular updates for family members.
For many families, memory care also offers significant cost savings — especially if your loved one is still living in their own home. Memory care eliminates the need for home ownership and the many costs that accompany it. It also means you’ll no longer have to assemble a piecemeal care strategy — no more adult daycare, in-home caregivers, or respite care. Instead, your loved one will get all they need under a single roof, for a single price. That means you'll spend less time worrying about money, and may even have some money left over to take a vacation, start a college fund, or even just take your loved one on a special outing.
Strategies for Broaching the Subject of Memory Care
Memory care is a major transition, especially if your loved one still lives at home. It’s common for family members to disagree about what level of care is needed. In some cases, one or more family members may even deny the severity of the dementia or believe the diagnosis is wrong. So discussing memory care usually begins with getting the entire family on board.
A family discussion with your loved one’s doctor can be helpful. The doctor can tell you more about your loved one’s prognosis, symptoms, and treatment options. Alternatively, some people turn to senior care coordinators. They act as family supports and counselors, helping you evaluate your options and talk through disagreements.
Once everyone is on board, it’s time to talk to your loved one. If their dementia is severe, keep the conversation simple. Explain what is going to happen, but don’t tell them too far in advance. They may forget, and they probably won’t understand. Keep explanations simple, and be sure to offer lots of reassurance.
If your loved one’s dementia is less advanced and they understand the concept of memory care, be prepared for some pushback. Try to give them as much control as possible — for example, by helping them decide what to take with them and encouraging them to tour the memory care community with you. The right care community can offer additional tips for managing the transition and talking to your loved one. Your loved one’s doctor can also offer insight into what your loved one can and cannot understand.
Where to Find Memory Care in Maryland
Begin your search for Maryland memory care by talking to people you trust, such as your loved one’s doctor or family members with a loved one in memory care. A number of Maryland resources can also help you find the right community. Some great starting points include:
- Maryland Department of Aging's list of Maryland Senior Centers. Senior centers offer a wide range of activities and a chance to make new friends. They may also have listings for local senior care options.
- Maryland Department of Aging. This one-stop resource offers tips for choosing a senior living community, access to a long-term care ombudsman, senior driving advice, and much more.
- Maryland Senior Care System. Connect to resources, including funding options, for senior long-term care.
Don’t rush your search. Take time to tour each community, ask lots of questions, and observe and speak to residents. Your loved one deserves the best possible care, and that’s exactly what they should get.
Arbor offers Maryland’s best memory care, in tight-knit and supportive communities. We’d love to help you explore your options. Give us a call, start a chat or stop by for a visit!